More gadgets, more power: What we can do about it
By By Jeffrey Swofford, Ecova
Jeffrey Swofford is a research analyst at Ecova.
We have more gadgets in our homes and offices than ever before. But it comes with some baggage: almost 500 billion kilowatt-hours of U.S. electricity use each year. That's the equivalent of roughly 10 times the annual electricity use of the entire state of Oregon. Many of these gadgets fall under the plug-load umbrella. If you don’t know what plug loads are, check out my first SBO blog post.
Now it's time to talk about what we can do about it. One thing is clear — more and more gadgets will continue to be produced. The Energy Information Administration’s 2011 Annual Energy Outlook projects that plug loads will grow 60 percent from 2010 to 2030, dwarfing traditional categories like lighting and HVAC. We need to develop smarter and more efficient plug-load devices through innovative policy and technology mechanisms.
A few researchers from my team at Ecova recently published a study called "Capturing Plug Load Energy Savings with a Wide Net" from this year’s ACEEE Summer Study. There are two ideas from that paper worth mentioning here: horizontal standards and power scaling.
More policy approaches are needed that cut across many different plug load device types ― something we call horizontal standards. Implementing fundamental efficiency principles, such as reducing vampire power, via standards that cut across hundreds of different product groups can achieve tremendous energy savings. It's a small amount of savings for each product, but spanning across millions of products — it all adds up.
Current horizontal policies in some countries address plug-load energy from three perspectives: standby power (i.e. vampire power), external power supply and battery charger. External power supplies and battery chargers are common hardware components found in many plug load products. Horizontal mandatory standards for external power supplies have already saved at least 30 billion kilowatt-hours worldwide. Forthcoming California and U.S. battery charger standards are expected to save an even larger percentage of total plug load energy use.
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