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[ Buildings and Efficiency ]

Consumer Electronics


  • [GWh of Electricity Saved:]

    190K
  • [Jobs Impact:]

    • Low
    • Medium
    • High
  • [Budget Impact:]

    • Low
    • Medium
    • High
  • [Conventional Pollutants Reduced:]

    SO2
    25,002 tons
    NOx
    20,638 tons
    Hg
    .33 tons
    PM
    3832 tons
  • [Megatons of GHG Reduced:]

    182

Overview

From iPads to cell phones to televisions to radios, the average household now owns 24 electronic devices.1 Coupled with appliances, electronics have grown from 17% of residential energy use in 1978 to more than 31% by 20052 and are still annually growing by 6%.3 As much as 10%4 of the 359,000 GWh of electricity consumed by these devices in 20065 can be attributed to times when they aren’t in use, just in “standby mode”.6 800 million devices are bought annually,7 rapid turnover that could help make the 5 billion consumer electronic devices in the U.S.8 more efficient quickly. Instead, each new device requires more, often dirty, energy from the grid, contributing more than 600 megatons of GHG emissions to the atmosphere annually.9

Analysis

Consumer electronics face a unique set of challenges. First, consumer electronics is a hodge-podge of regulatory standards, both mandatory and voluntary. Second, consumer purchasing behaviors are more like “fashion” than most other energy or efficiency decisions.

DOE sets minimum efficiency standards for a range of residential electronics and appliances, from dishwashers to dehumidifiers,10 but many common categories, such as televisions11 and battery chargers (like your phone uses)12 are still in development. As a result of the sizeable potential efficiency gains and long timelines, some states, such as California, pass electronics standards, leading to patchwork regulations.13 On the other end of the efficiency spectrum, the Energy Star program allows products to voluntarily certify as particularly energy efficient, but it can only effect those products that opt in to the program.14 This hodgepodge of standards makes it costly for manufacturers and stifles innovation.15

In the case of consumer electronics, both buying patterns and buying criteria are different than many other home-sector purchases. Buying patterns are difficult to predict, with new types of electronics developing over a relatively short time span. For instance, set-top boxes, such as cable boxes or digital video recorders(DVR), were historically high power consumers,16 and propagated quickly, with DVRs gaining a place in 43% of households over 10 years.17 While set-top box makers have since improved energy efficiency and created voluntary efficiency standards,18 many other devices continue to waste energy. For these other electronics, like computers, consumers buying criteria is often functionality, with efficiency rarely considered.19

Implementation

To overcome the unique challenges of consumer electronics, a multi-faceted approach that makes efficient options available to end users is necessary.

Expand and Improve Efficiency Standards

DOE should issue energy efficiency rules for categories not currently covered or being adequately addressed through voluntary energy efficiency measures. When appropriate, DOE should also encourage voluntary energy efficiency initiatives to expedite energy savings for consumers, as has been seen with cable boxes.20 Adoption of high minimum efficiency standards could save consumers money and reduce the regulatory burden for manufacturers, while reducing the need for energy. For instance, in the case of battery chargers, if DOE were to adopt the stricter California minimum efficiency standard21 in place of the current DOE proposal,22 Americans would save an estimated $1B annually and eliminate the need for 2GW of electricity generating capacity.23 With similar, higher standards in place across consumer electronics, energy would be saved without any change in consumer behavior.

Mandate Efficient Federal Procurement

Similar to the executive order signed by President George W. Bush in 2001,24 the Obama administration should work with federal agencies to ensure that all off-the-shelf electronics procured, not only battery chargers, meet high energy efficiency standards. Creating a large market for more efficient electronics would encourage manufacturers to make such models, providing average consumers with energy-saving options.

Create a Green Distribution Public-Private Partnership

The DOE should create a partnership with retailers of electronics that encourages and incentivizes retailers to devote more stock and more attractive product placement to efficient options. Similar to programs by several utilities that promote efficient products, this type of program has proven highly effective in saving energy by increasing customer access to and awareness of efficient electronics options.25

EndNotes
  1. United States, Environmental Protection Agency, “eCycling.” Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/conserve/materials/ecycling/index.htm.
  2. United States, Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, “Share of energy used by appliances and consumer electronics increases in U.S. houses,” Residential Energy Consumption Survey, March 28, 2011. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.eia.gov/consumption/residential/reports/2009/electronics.cfm.
  3. United States, Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR, “Business and Consumer Electronics: The Road to Efficiency,” Presentation, p. 4. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/downloads/meetings/NEEA_SMUD_and_PG&E_Program_Updates.pdf.
  4. United States, Department of Energy, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, “Standby Power.” Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://standby.lbl.gov/.
  5. Kurt Roth, Kurtis McKenney, Chris Paetsch, and Ratcharit Ponoum, “U.S. Residential Miscellaneous Electric Loads Electricity Consumption,” Report, 2009 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, 2008, p. 9-258. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://aceee.org/files/proceedings/2008/start.htm.
  6. In this case “standby mode” signifies both actual standby mode and vampire energy loads. Examples would include a consumer electronics device waiting for a signal from the remote control or a cell phone charger waiting for the phone to be plugged in. For more, see United States, Department of Energy, Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, “Standby Power Summary Table.” Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://standby.lbl.gov/summary-table.html.
  7. Pierre Delforge, “Fact Sheet on US Department of Energy’s Proposed National Energy Efficiency Standards for Battery Chargers and External Power Supplies,” Fact Sheet, Natural Resources Defense Council. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.appliance-standards.org/fact-sheet.
  8. “U.S. Residential Miscellaneous Electric Loads Electricity Consumption.”
  9. Math based on 75% of household electricity being used by electronics, and household emissions from United States, Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, “Carbon dioxide emissions grow in the residential sector,” Table, June 27, 2011. Accessed April 19, 2013. here: http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=1970.
  10. United States, Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Technologies Office, “Standards and Test Procedures,” Appliance and Equipment Standards. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: https://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/appliance_standards/residential_products.html.
  11. United States, Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Technologies Office, “Televisions,” Appliance and Equipment Standards.. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/appliance_standards/product.aspx/productid/34.
  12. United States, Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Building Technologies Office, “Battery Chargers and External Power Supplies,” Appliance and Equipment Standards. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at:  http://www1.eere.energy.gov/buildings/appliance_standards/product.aspx/productid/23.
  13. United States, Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, “Both State and Federal governments have appliance efficiency standards,” Report, April 3, 2012. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=5670.
  14. United States, Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR, “Find ENERGY STAR Products.” Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_find_es_products.
  15. Alex Chase, Jonathan McHugh, and Patrick Eilert, “Federal Appliance Standards Should be the Floor, Not the Ceiling: Strategies for Innovative State Codes & Standards,” Report, OurEnergyPolicy.org, p. 12, August 2012. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.ourenergypolicy.org/federal-appliance-standards-should-be-the-floor-not-the-ceiling-strategies-for-innovative-state-codes-standards/.
  16. “U.S. Residential Miscellaneous Electric Loads Electricity Consumption,” p. 9-266.
  17. “Share of energy used buy appliances and consumer electronics increases in U.S. homes.”
  18. For more details on the set-top box industry’s voluntary standards, see “Voluntary Agreement for Ongoing Improvement to the Energy Efficiency of Set-top Boxes,” National Cable Television Association, December 6, 2012. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.ncta.com/news-and-events/media-room/article/2453.
  19. “Always On, Always Connected: Finding Growth Opportunities in an Era of Hypermobile Consumers,” Report, 2012 Consumer Electronics Report, Accenture, p. 11, 2012. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.accenture.com/us-en/Pages/insight-2012-consumer-electronics-products-services-usage-report.aspx.
  20. “Set-Top Box Energy Conservation Agreement Expected to Save U.S. Consumers $1.5 Billion Annually,” Press Release, National Cable Television Association, December 5, 2012. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.ncta.com/ReleaseType/MediaRelease/Set-Top-Box-Energy-Conservation-Agreement-Expected--to-Save-U-S--Consumers--1-5-Billion-Annually-.aspx; See also “Feinstein Applauds Agreement on Energy Efficient Set-Top Boxes,” Press Release, The Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein, December 6, 2012. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=cc4566d0-92af-4e18-b012-36549d6f090f; See also “Murkowski Commends Cable Box Energy Efficiency Agreement,” Press Release, The Office of Senator Lisa Murkowski, December 6, 2012. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.murkowski.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=4f5611fc-b4f0-443a-870e-a2f0a81f54a0&ContentType_id=b94acc28-404a-4fc6-b143-a9e15bf92da4&Group_id=c01df158-d935-4d7a-895d-f694ddf41624&MonthDisplay=12&YearDisplay=2012; See also “Markey: End Republican War on Energy Efficiency?” Press Release, The Office of Representative Ed Markey, February 26, 2013. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://markey.house.gov/press-release/markey-end-republican-war-energy-efficiency; See also “Dingell Statement Regarding Energy & Power Hearing on Energy Efficient Technologies,” Press Release, The Office of Representative John Dingell, February 26, 2013. Accessed April 19, 2013. Available at: http://dingell.house.gov/press-release/dingell-statement-regarding-energy-power-hearing-energy-efficient-technologies
  21. “Proposed Amendments to Appliance Efficiency Regulations,” Report, California Energy Commission, December 2011. Accessed April 21, 2013. Available at: http://www.energy.ca.gov/appliances/.
  22. United States, Department of Energy, “Energy Conservation Program: Energy Conservation Standards for Battery Chargers and External Power Supplies,” Federal Register, March 27, 2012. Accessed April 21, 2013. Available at:
  23. “Fact Sheet on US Department of Energy’s Proposed National Energy Efficiency Standards for Battery Chargers and External Power Supplies.”
  24. United States, Presidential Documents, “Energy Efficient Standby Power Devices,” Federal Register, Vol. 66, No. 149, Executive Order 13221 of July 31, 2001. Published August 2, 2001. Accessed April 21, 2013. Available at:
  25. “Business and Consumer Electronics: The Road to Efficiency,” p. 10.