Home2025: Home electronics

Around the world, appliances have emerged as a major driver of energy use in homes, increasing from a share of 12% in 1990 to 18% in 2011. While improvements have been made in the energy efficiency of larger equipment such as fridges, ‘other appliances’ such as televisions, IT equipment and small electronics now consume the most energy.

With the global middle class growing by 3 billion people to reach 4.9 billion by 2030, we can expect increased energy consumption unless we see dramatic improvements in energy efficiency and productivity – or step changes in device footprints, such as the impact seen as people shifted from laptops to mobile phones.

The main way energy use is measured in appliances is through both the active state of the device and its power saving or standby modes. According to the IEA, the total standby power demand of the entire residential sector in industrialized countries amounts to around 15 gigawatts.

In the EU-27 countries alone, standby energy amounts to about 43 terawatt-hours (TWh) and is responsible for about 19 million tonnes of CO2 per year, which is the same amount as around 4,000 typical cars.

Image courtesy of NRDC

Trends differ depending on the devices, standards in place and the technologies that drive the consumption. In computing for example, peak-output efficiency – which is measured by how much processing is done per kilowatt-hour – has doubled along with Moore’s law for 50 years, though this looks like it is slowing.

The better news is that despite this slowdown, most computers or mobile phones only operate at peak capacity for 1% of the time. But we still need to see a fundamental computing shift for energy productivity to increase along with processing power.

But the latest models of new electronics are not always more efficient. For example the latest generation game consoles consume more energy each year playing videos or in standby mode than when actually playing games.

Both the latest Xbox One and PS4 consume two to three times more annual energy than their predecessors, due to more power demand used in ‘standby’ and ‘on’ modes. Standards for power conservation and standby modes are a necessary short-term strategy to continue driving innovation in energy productivity, and overall efficiency in electronics.

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