Government-Regulated Power Efficiency Sought For Consumer Electronics

The amount of power consumed worldwide by mobile phones, TVs, and PCs could jeopardize efforts to reduce emissions linked to global warming, says an advisory group.
Unless more energy efficiency is mandated for consumer electronics, the amount of power consumed worldwide by mobile phones, TVs, and PCs could triple, jeopardizing efforts to reduce emissions linked to global warming, an international advisory group warned.

The amount of additional power consumer electronics would consume by 2030 without more power efficiency would be equal to the electricity currently consumed in all U.S. and Japanese households, the International Energy Agency said in releasing the report Gadgets And Gigawatts on Wednesday. To stop the trend, the IEA, which acts as a policy adviser to 28 member countries, including the United States, called on governments to implement energy-efficiency policies.

The numbers related to the growing use of electronics is sobering. Already, more than 5.5 billion power supplies are sucking up energy to recharge the billions of devices in homes. Those gadgets include nearly 2 billion TV sets. In addition, more than half of the global population subscribes to a mobile phone service.

With the number of devices expected to double by 2022 and triple by 2030, the cost to consumers for powering these additional gadgets would reach $200 billion in 20 years, the IEA said.

The good news in the report is that the technology exists today to cut by more than half current levels of energy consumption by consumer electronics, mobile phones, and PCs. Implementing best-of-class technology would slow growth in consumption to less than 1% per year through 2030. The reduction in power would lower consumers' energy bills by more than $130 billion by 2030 and avoid the use of electricity equal to the total generating capacity of Japan.

Because longer battery life is a major selling point, mobile devices today are designed to use very little power, a strategy that needs to be extended to devices that run directly off a household outlet. "Where no such commercial drivers exist, governments must step in to ensure that we make the most of every energy efficiency opportunity," IEA executive director Nobuo Tanaka said in a statement.

The largest improvement in energy consumption would come from making hardware and software work together more effectively so that energy is used only when, and to the extent, needed, the IEA said. Strong public policies would ensure efficiency by setting maximum energy use for devices.

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