'Stand-by' energy waste to double in ten years

EU Commission says industry must slow rising trend in electricity waste from appliances

The European Commission is calling for urgent action by electronic equipment manufacturers to reduce the amount of energy their appliances use while on "stand-by". In a policy paper sent to the other EU institutions, it says that unless products become more energy efficient the amount of electricity "wasted" in this way could almost double over the next ten years.

The paper, drawn up by the Commission's energy directorate (DGXVII), estimates that machines such as remote-control televisions in idle mode account for up to 10% of household electricity use in the EU. This amounts to 36 terawatt hours (TWh) of "wasted" electricity a year which, the Commission says, could easily rise to 62TWh by 2010, because of the projected growth in the number of electronic appliances, especially digital televisions.

The Commission claims that better use of available technology could curb this projected increase by 60%, to 39TWh. Such a saving in power consumption would, in theory, be equivalent to 21 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Voluntary agreements with manufacturers are singled out as the single most effective means of achieving such a reduction. The Commission has already reached an agreement with the European Association of Consumer Electronics Manufacturers (EACEM) on improving stand-by efficiency in televisions and video recorders, and hopes for a similar agreement on audio equipment in the first half of this year. It is now beginning talks on set-top television devices such as integrated receiver decoders and wall packs and chargers.

As well as setting minimum standards for products' energy efficiency, the Commission also wants to encourage sales of the most efficient appliances. It highlights the role of product labelling in informing consumers about the most efficient appliances, and says an international scheme is required. The policy paper suggests that the EU should consider participating in the "Energy Star" system established by the USA. Officials are already discussing the coordination of labels for office electronic equipment with their American counterparts, and may consider expanding this to consumer appliances. However, any labelling policy would have to be consistent with the EU's own ecolabel, which may be extended to cover products such as televisions in the future, the Commission stresses.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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