Are Energy Standards for Computers on the Horizon?

The computer industry may soon be facing another round of regulatory measures. This time, they may come in the form of state-imposed energy efficiency rules.

The California Energy Commission appears to be moving ahead with the nation’s first energy efficiency standards for computers and monitors. Some reports indicate that the standards, which would apply to the power-use settings for desktops, laptops and computer monitors sold in the state, may be adopted by the end of this year; given California’s market size and influence, adoption of these standards could spark industrywide changes, the news report noted.

The standards, which would vary by computer type and possibly be phased in during 2017 and/or 2018, would save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars every year, according to the CEC’s March 2015 press release. For desktop computers alone, it is estimated that a $2 increase in manufacturing costs will return $69 to consumers in energy savings over the five-year life of a desktop, the organization claims.

The main issue raising concern is when these devices sit idle, they waste energy and money, states the CEC. Adding to this, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a report in July 2016 saying that “electricity use by computers can be cut in half using off-the-shelf technology with no impact on performance, and at negligible cost.”

The NRDC estimates that roughly 300 million computers in the US spend from 50 to 77 percent of their time “on but inactive” and consume $10 billion a year worth of electricity. That’s the equivalent of 30 large power plants sending out 65 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution that contributes to climate change, the group notes.

It’s debatable how much energy homes are wasting on electronic devices, something computer industry trade associations have been quick to point over the last few years as the CEC’s proposals moved through draft revision rounds.

The Consumer Technology Association, citing a now-dated Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) study, Energy Consumption of Consumer Electronics in U.S. Homes in 2013 , said in a 2014 press release that: “Despite their significantly higher market penetration in U.S. homes, consumer electronics (CE) now account for a lower percentage of electricity usage per household than they did three years ago…CE devices accounted for just 12 percent of residential electricity consumption in the U.S. last year [2013], a nine percent drop from their energy consumption share in 2010.”

The voluntary labeling ENERGY STAR system, overseen by US Environmental Protection Agency, also, arguably, has allowed consumers to recognize the most energy-efficient products across a wide range of industries. Computers and monitors were among the first ENERGY STAR-labeled products, according to reports.

It’s only a matter of time to see how this plays out and which proposal turns into a final ruling that affect computer makers and their manufacturing partners and suppliers. How are you preparing for this change and getting your supply chain ready for anticipated compliance?

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