With the growth of home entertainment systems, home computer systems and battery-powered devices, the number of consumer electronic products we own has mushroomed in a matter of just a few years. Consumer electronics now represent the fastest growing sector of residential energy consumption — and one of the biggest areas of wasted electricity.
External power supplies (EPS) — the little black boxes on many electronic power cords, and battery charging systems — which are often incorporated directly into the products themselves, are vital components of the consumer electronics products we use each day. As electricity flows through these components to power our devices, too much of it ends up as waste heat. When considering the use of hundreds of millions of these consumer products in use throughout the country, we are looking at a significant new load on the electrical grid due to these inefficiencies.
For many manufacturers, opting for cheap, inefficient components has been a means to cut production costs, with little regard for the big picture. The good news for us as consumers and the electric grid is that there are efficient technologies already in use in the market.
In order to address this new load and take advantage of the clear opportunities that are available, the U.S. Department of Energy launched a rulemaking in 2010 to establish minimum efficiency standards for battery charging systems and to revise an existing standard for external power supplies — regulations that aim to require all cost-effective energy efficiency technology be built into these products.
The effort to set strong energy efficiency standards for battery chargers and external power supplies is of paramount importance to Northeast states, as we have implemented some of the most aggressive savings goals in the country. Strong federal energy efficiency standards for these product categories will help our states meet these targets by reducing consumption of electricity, as well as lowering peak electricity demand, significantly reducing pollution and saving consumers money, which drives new economic opportunities.
In states like Massachusetts – through its Global Warming Solutions Act – and New York – through NYSERDA’s Technology and Market Development Plan – product and appliance standards are specifically projected to bring certain levels of energy savings to the states. Yet, without a strong federal standard enacted by the Department of Energy, those promised savings will not materialize.
Following preliminary stages of the rulemaking process, the DOE recently published proposed standards for battery chargers and EPS. Although Northeast stakeholders appreciate the hard work of DOE staff on this issue, our stakeholders and NEEP partners are not convinced the proposed standard would go far enough to capture the full technically and economically feasible savings potential. In fact, a letter submitted by state agencies representing several members of NEEP’s Northeast Appliance Standards Project asserts that the standards for battery charger standards could be twice as stringent as proposed, and still be cost-effective.
NEEP sees this process as vital to transforming the market for high efficiency consumer electronics products and avoiding the potential energy spike from this growing product sector. The support of states and utilities has been crucial in pushing federal standards, and strong and effective standards in turn play a key role in advancing state energy savings goals.
Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) is a non-profit organization that transforms the way we use and think about energy. Appliance Standards Project Manager Read more from this author