Are Mandatory Efficiency Standards Needed?
Report says energy-saving requirements on TVs, DVD players and PCs could save trillions.
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August 11, 2009 by Steven Castle

A new report from McKinsey & Co. says that elevating energy efficiency to a national priority could save American consumers $1.2 trillion by 2020.

More energy-efficient electronics can be a big part of the solution, if mandatory energy-saving standards are enacted.

According to the report, TVs, DVD players and PCs are the three largest energy-consuming devices among all home electronics and small appliances, including microwave ovens and heating and ceiling fans.

TVs, DVD players and PCs made up 32 percent of electrical devices and small appliance consumption in 2008. And demand for electricity from these devices and others will only grow, the report says.

“In 2008 the average household spent $330 on energy for electrical devices and small appliances, with the expenditure growing at an annual rate of 2 percent. The EIA forecasts that increased penetration of electronic devices will drive consumption from 500 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2008 to 630 TWh by 2020, rising from 35 percent of residential electricity consumption to 40 percent in 2020.

“By 2020, there will be 2.5 billion devices consuming power in residential homes.”

The potential for energy savings can grow, too. Electrical devices and small appliances now account for 19 percent of residential energy efficiency potential and 44 percent of residential electricity potential in 2020, according to the report.

The report cites several barriers to achieving greater energy efficiency in our home electronics, including:

  • Lack of consumer awareness
  • Low manufacturer mindshare on efficiency
  • Consumers underestimating how much energy their electronic devices consume
  • Limited technology availability
  • Failure to use energy-saving settings (on PCs and TVs)

A big part of the solution to overcoming these barriers, the report advocates, is implementing mandatory standards.

“Setting mandatory standards … for the five largest plug-load categories [including TVs, DVD players and PCs] would save 210 trillion BTUs (36 percent of this cluster’s potential),” the report states.

“A cross-cutting standby [or ‘vampire’ power] standard could capture a large portion across a range of devices, both high-consumption devices that have specific product standards and devices that have too little consumption to warrant a specific standard of their own,” the study adds. “A standby standard could reduce standby consumption by roughly two-thirds, yielding 90 to 110 TWh in savings.”

“Many devices could meet a standby standard with little incremental cost, likely to be less than 50 cents per unit,” the study claims.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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