2.4. PERSPECTIVES FOR REDUCTION OF STANDBY POWER
CONSUMPTION IN ELECTRICAL APPLIANCES
by Brahmanand Mohanty
Visiting Associate Professor, Asian Institute of Technology, Pathumthani, Thailand
Imagine you have ordered a glass of cool carbonated drink in a bar. What would
your reaction be if the waiter returned with a glass filled mostly with frothy bubbles
and very little liquid at the bottom? You will certainly feel cheated - why should you
pay for a practically empty glass? And yet this is what happens to most of us in our
day-to-day life and we continue to pay for “the drink that we never really got to drink”.
A Video-cassette recorder (VCR) is used in homes around the world for playing and
recording cassettes for only about 5 per cent of the time while it remains in standby
state during the remaining 95 per cent of the day. Little do we realise that only 15 per
cent of the power are required during its operation whereas 85 per cent of the power
are lost unproductively when the machine is in standby state. Moreover, we cannot
even blame the “waiter” in this case.
Standby electricity is the energy consumed by appliances when they are not
performing their main functions or when they are switched off. The energy wasted in
this manner is commonly referred to as “standby loss” or “leaking electricity”. Most
people are not aware of the fact that modern electrical and electronic appliances,
even those having on/off switches, consume power for standby functions that include
features such as powering of the built-in clock or memory, displaying information,
responding to remote controls or programming, charging of batteries, etc.
A study conducted by the Australian Greenhouse Office concluded that up to 80 per
cent of the electricity used in video recorders were in standby mode. In New
Zealand, microwave ovens consume 40 per cent of electricity as standby energy,
mainly to run digital clocks. Field surveys in office buildings of Thailand concluded
that idle losses were 53 per cent for personal computers, over 90 per cent for
copiers, printers and fax machines.1
The number of products with standby power consumption is growing rapidly in terms
of quantity and diversity. Several products commercialised in the market today do
not have any hard “off” switches. Many appliances have no standby features but are
equipped with external power supplies (commonly known as wall-packs). Even when
they are not performing any operation or are switched off, a small amount of energy
is lost in low voltage power supplies, mainly due to the cheap transformers with high
core losses. Household appliances and office equipment such as televisions, video
recorders, audio players, telephone answering and facsimile machines, computers,
printers and copiers contribute to this standby loss which is relatively low, with typical
loss per appliance ranging from less than 1 W to as much as 25 W.2
As more and more such appliances are being used in households and offices, their
energy consumption during standby periods represents a significant share of the
total energy use. Recent field studies show that standby power accounts for 9.4 per
cent of household energy use in Japan3, whereas the figure rises to 11.6 per cent in
Australia. The standby losses amount to about 20.5 billion kWh for Germany.4
Standby power in the residential and commercial sectors in OECD may account for
188 TWh/year, or 2.2 per cent of the total OECD electricity consumption.5 Much of
this consumption can be avoided, as proven by the introduction of power-saving
standby modes in several appliances that are permanently plugged in.
Figure 2.4.1 Why should you pay for what you have not really consumed?
- standby power of a VCR
In developing countries, there is lower penetration of electronic products at homes
and in offices and one would normally expect much lower standby power
consumption of households as compared with their counterparts in the industrialised
world. However, the appliances that are available in the market are very often not
necessarily those state-of-art products sold in the developed countries. No detailed
field surveys are so far available for developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
A survey of 51 households in Japan showed that if the appliances in use were
replaced by the latest models sold in the market, the standby energy use per
household would reduce from 398 to 228 kWh/year, representing almost 43 per cent
savings. Industry has proven that savings as high as 90 per cent can be achieved in
many appliances without any reduction in services, and that too at low or no cost.6
Another aspect that merits attention is the awareness and the attitude of consumer
towards standby power use. The standby power loss is not high enough to attract
attention at the level of the consumer. Surveys conducted on households in the UK
conclude that raising the awareness of end-users can help in as much as 25 per cent
reduction in standby power.7
This shows that technical solutions play an important role by assuring that the
settings are maintained in the appliance or the “wake-up” time of the appliance is
reduced considerably. Reasons for emphasising the need to minimise standby
power losses include the commercial availability of technical options, the relatively
short replacement period of appliances concerned, and the considerably high and
unnecessary energy consumption due to inefficient technology.
Time En er g y Us e
2.4.2. Estimation of standby power losses
Various national studies have been conducted to estimate the standby power losses
at homes and offices. Some of these studies are based on field measurements and
others are “bottom-up” estimates. In the absence of actual measurements,
calculations are based on standby power measurements of appliances reported in
The types of appliances taken into consideration for evaluating the total standby
power loss are mostly the common ones found in almost all countries. The different
categories of appliances include:
- audio and video equipment (television, VCR, Cassette/CD/DVD players, video
players/recorders, speakers and sound systems…);
- telephony (cordless telephone, answering machine, interphone…);
- kitchen appliances (microwave, kitchen oven, rice cooker, bread maker…);
- set-tops (analog and digital cable box, television decoder, internet terminal,
- office appliances (personal computers and monitors, modems, ink jet/laser
printers, scanners, photocopy machines, typewriters…);
- battery operated devices (cell phones, battery chargers, notebooks/laptops,
hand-held power tools and vacuum cleaners, shavers…); and
- miscellaneous home appliances (security system, water treatment unit, door
openers, timers, low-voltage halogen lamps, motion sensors…).
The findings of some of the recent studies carried out to assess the standby power
losses in selected countries around the world are summarised below.
The average standby and miscellaneous consumption was found to be 86.8 W or
760 kWh per annum per household in Australia.8 This amounts to 11.6 per cent of
Australian residential electricity use in 2000. This is equivalent to around US$ 200
million worth of electricity each year, generating 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Results imply that the miscellaneous and standby electricity consumption has grown
by 8 per cent per annum from 1994 to 2000 (i.e. doubling every 9 years).
Only about 15 per cent of the appliances were found “unplugged” during the survey.
A large proportion of appliances consumed power in both standby and off modes.
Many products were found to have no hard “off” switches. These include video-
cassette recorders, computer peripherals (speakers, modems, fax machines,
scanners and printers), audio-visual equipment (integrated stereos, DVDs), and an
increasing number of white goods that incorporated “soft touch” electronic controls.
White goods refer to household appliances such as refrigerator, washing machine,
microwave oven and cook-top. Entertainment equipment and office equipment are
referred to as brown and grey goods, respectively.
Computer peripherals such as scanners, modems and speakers consumed energy
in off mode. An emerging concern is the audio-visual equipment (not including TV
and VCR) whose standby consumption is high, an average of 9.5 W, and is expected
to grow faster due to large numbers present in households.
There has been a noticeable decrease in standby power, with the average value for
televisions dropping from 16 W in 1991 to just over 5 W in 2001. The same is true for
VCRs whose average standby consumption has come down from 10W in 1990 to
4W in 2001.
Over the last 20 years, the average annual growth rate in appliance production of
China has been 32.1 per cent per annum. The demand for these appliances
continues to increase in the domestic market; 30 million colour TV were sold in 2000.
Based on a preliminary survey in a very limited number of households in China, the
mean standby power consumption is estimated as 29 W.9 Main contributors to this
standby power are identified as the TV, VCD and audio systems. Depending on the
model of television, the standby power varies from 2.4 to 21.1 W, with an average of
9.6 W. For VCDs, the standby losses range from 3.4 to 21.8 W, and the average is
The time period during which the appliances remain in standby mode is uncertain.
Assuming the equipment to be in standby mode during 10 hours per day, the total
standby losses for the country are estimated to be 13 billion kWh per year.
Field measurements were carried out in France around 1998-99 to assess the
standby energy use of more than 70 categories of equipment in 178 households
representing the entire housing stock in terms of average penetration of specific
types of electrical equipment and average electricity consumption.10 The household
standby power use was estimated to range from 29 to 38 W. The annual household
standby electricity consumption was calculated as 235 kWh per annum, which
represented 7 per cent of the total residential electricity consumption in 1999. Some
pieces of equipment with high standby power use are summarised in Figure 2.5.2.
Figure 2.4.2 Typical standby power losses from electrical appliances in France
The standby power consumption of a typical household is estimated as 398 kWh per
annum; considering that a household consumes 4,227 kWh per annum on an
average, the standby power accounts for 9.4 per cent of household electricity use.
The main culprit for this high share is identified as the VCR which alone accounts for
almost a quarter of the total standby power use. The gas water heaters and audio
Average standby power (W)
combinations account for another quarter of standby energy. Standby power losses
measured in some typical appliances are shown in Figure 2.5.3. Standby power
losses can be reduced by almost 43 per cent if the households replaced their
existing appliances with the latest ones available in the market.
Figure 2.4.3 Typical standby power losses from electrical appliances in Japan
In Thailand, though the office equipment is turned off at night and during weekends,
it is left switched on unnecessarily during the day. The idle periods for machines
were found to be 53 per cent for computers, 94 per cent for copiers, 96 per cent for
dot-matrix and ink-jet printers, 98 per cent for laser printers, and 98 per cent for fax
machines. The power consumption of appliances in active and standby modes is
summarised in Figure 2.5.4.
Figure 2.4.4 Standby power losses of office appliances in Thailand
Most users were unaware of the built-in power management features of the
equipment. If the power management features were enabled, from 15 to 26 per cent
of annual electricity consumption could be reduced without additional costs.
10 20 30 40 50 60 70
Dot matrix/ inkjet
Power consumption (W)
Active (W) Standby (W)
Average standby power (W)
22.214.171.124. United Kingdom
Based on field measurements and surveys, the average standby electricity demand
per household was found to be 32 W. This led to an average annual electricity
consumption of 277 kWh per annum per household, i.e. 8 per cent of the total
electricity use of the residential sector. An analysis of the product categories showed
that the audio-visual products accounted for 68.6 per cent of standby power use;
here too, VCR and hi-fi dominated with a high share of 65 per cent.
More than half of the users is willing to switch off the appliance if the machine could
retain the programme settings when it was switched off. It is estimated that a proper
awareness campaign among the users could induce a reduction of standby power
consumption from 32 to 24 W, or from 277 to 209 kWh per annum per household.
126.96.36.199. United States of America11
A typical home in the USA requires 50 W of standby power on an average. This
works out as 440 kWh per annum per household, i.e. 5 per cent of the total
residential electricity use. Considering over 100 million homes in the US, the standby
consumption represents 5 GW of power.
The range of standby power for a single type of appliance can be very big due to
differences in features, design and choice of components. For example, the standby
power of a compact audio system can vary from as little as 1.3 W to as high as
28.6W. Certain appliances consume nearly as much power when they are switched
on or switched off. For example, there is practically no change in power consumption
of most digital television decoders and many VCR and compact audio equipment.
A more recent investigation of standby power use of 190 appliances in 10 Californian
homes showed that the total standby power in the homes ranged from 14 to 169 W,
with an average of 67 W. Standby power accounted for 5 to 26 per cent of the total
annual electricity use, with an average of 9 per cent. The large variation in standby
power of appliances providing the same services demonstrates the scope for
manufacturers to reduce standby losses without degrading performance.12
188.8.131.52. Member Countries of the Organisation for Economic Development and
An estimate of the residential standby power consumption in 9 industrialised
countries done by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that the average
value varies from as low as 19 W for Switzerland to as high as 100 W for New
Zealand. Consumption of standby power in OECD countries has been estimated by
assuming the use of similar appliances and their penetration levels. Results are
presented in Table 2.5.1. It is significant to note that the total standby power demand
of the OECD residential sector amounts to 15 GW, i.e. 1.5 per cent of the total
electricity consumption. The standby energy consumption of OECD countries is as
high as 128 TWh per year.
Due to the lack of data, it is difficult to estimate the standby power use in developing
countries. However, with the current trend of high growth in demand for home and
office electronic appliances, this will become substantially higher if no steps are
taken to create greater awareness among users and to influence manufacturers for
incorporating advanced energy-saving features of equipment in standby mode.
2.4.3. Methods to reduce standby power consumption
There are basically two methods to reduce the standby power consumption:
behavioural and technical. The first one involves better consumer awareness and
education on standby energy consumption. In some countries, local power utilities
conduct information and motivation campaigns to raise consumers’ awareness and
encourage the purchase of equipment with reduced standby consumption.
This approach has its share of merits and drawbacks. It is not easy to convince the
end-user about the economic and environmental benefits of adopting energy
efficiency practices, particularly when the quantum of saving is not high at the
individual level. Reaching out to each and every household in the country requires
considerable human and financial resources; this may not be perceived as the most
cost-effective option for public authorities. Moreover, manufacturers are
incorporating programmable clocks and timers in more and more appliances that
require continuous flow of electricity, even when the equipment is not in operation.
Personal computers connected to a network are required to be in standby mode to
avoid communication problem with peripheral devices or with the network manager.
So it may not always be practical to ask people to just unplug the appliances that are
not in use.
Table 2.4.1 Assessment of standby power in the residential sector of the
Rep. of Korea
The second method for reducing standby power consumption in most appliances is
the adoption of technological innovations. It is estimated that redesigning appliance
circuits can reduce standby power consumption up to 90 percent.
Manufacturers have introduced many power-saving features in the past decade,
particularly for products that are plugged in all the time. These features are typically
the standby or sleep modes; when an appliance performs fewer functions or it is
waiting for a signal to be fully operational, it is designed to go into standby mode in
which much less power is consumed. Some parts of the appliance remain on
standby till the power switch is activated or input received from a remote control
Sleep modes are incorporated into appliances that are frequently left on by the
consumers when these are not in use. Some devices have programming option for
switching off selected components when they are not in use for a stipulated time
period. This is the case with portable laptop/notebook computers that go into sleep
mode when the keyboard or the mouse is not used for a time period that can be set
by the user. Most computers in the market today have two power-saving modes
incorporated in the product design. This allows the machine to switch off some
components after a predefined time period; if the computer remains unused for a
longer predefined time period, it then enters into a deep sleep mode by switching off
several key features.
Unfortunately these appliances are delivered to the customer with the power
management features switched off. Generally neither the distributor nor the customer
is aware of the possibility of enabling the power management feature. Sometimes,
users who do not accept long wake up time for recovery, disable the standby mode.
In a survey conducted in office buildings in Thailand, users had not enabled the
power management features in 90 per cent of computers.
One of the areas where substantial energy is consumed when the appliance is on
standby or switched off is the power supply system. With the recent innovations, it is
possible to reduce the no-load losses while providing very high conversion
efficiencies. New generation power transformers adopting electronic components are
capable of reducing the standby power consumption from 5 W to as little as 0.1 W.
These transformers are also far more energy efficient, providing 70 to 75 per cent
efficiency compared to 40 to 45 per cent of the traditional models they replace.
Some pieces of equipment having bigger and brighter displays tend to consume
more power in standby mode. Liquid crystal displays are a good alternative but the
quality and colour of display is compromised. Thanks to the advances made in light
emitting diodes (LEDs), it is now possible to have low-power displays without
sacrificing the brightness and colours.
Concerned with the huge monetary losses and environmental impacts of standby
power consumption at the national level, governments in several countries have
initiated programmes to address the issue. The “Energy Star” label of the US
Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) for consumer electronic products takes
the standby power use into consideration. A number of similar approaches have
been adopted in other parts of world, particularly in Europe, Australia, Japan.
The IEA has initiated promoting international action to reduce the standby power
consumption of products to 1 W. These initiatives have, to a large extent,
accelerated the design and development of new consumer electronic products with
low standby power use.
In order to lower the standby power losses, a variety of technological solutions are
being offered by manufacturers in electric switches, integrated circuits, power
management software, and advanced power supplies and charging devices. Some
of these are described below.
184.108.40.206. The On-Off Product
The simplest solution to obtain zero Watt loss is to place the on-off switch on the
primary side of the power supply or simply pull out the plug from the socket.
However, this may not always be a practical solution.
In most appliances, the on-off switch is placed between the power supply and the
appliance. To minimise the no-load power loss of the transformer, one can opt for
more efficient power supplies. The traditional wall adapter design using a linear
supply has low efficiency and high no-load dissipation. Technical solutions exist to
reduce the no-load power consumption to around 0.1 W, at least for small power
For example, a new switching-architecture design from Power Integrations Inc.
employs much fewer and smaller components and an integrated circuit as a core to
develop power supplies featuring 70 to 75 per cent full-load efficiency and 0.1 W no-
load consumption. Interestingly, this new power supply costs less, occupies a
smaller volume and weighs only a quarter that of a conventional unit.13
220.127.116.11. The Standby Product
In this category, several products have on/off switches and products with external
power supplies can also be found. As the standby option is a desired feature in this
product, the appliance cannot be switched off completely. The power loss can be
reduced either by decreasing the standby power consumption or use an alternative
source such as photovoltaic cell or battery to power the standby mode. The former
can be achieved by considering ways at the designing stage of the appliance in
order to (a) decrease the number of components to be powered in the standby
mode; and (b) increase the efficiency of components that are essential for the
standby function. Alternatively, a special standby component may also be added,
such as a smaller power supply only for maintaining the standby function.
In a simple operation, user intervention, manual or remote, is necessary to put the
appliance into standby. In complex systems, the product itself can decide to go into
standby on the basis of the period of inactivity. Thanks to the progresses made in
microelectronics, appliances designed with power management feature can ensure
that the appliance is always in a state with the lowest power consumption while
satisfying the required functionality. For this, microprocessors are programmed to
monitor activity levels of several parts of the appliance and follow certain decision
rules to enter different states, e.g. standby or sleep mode. Power management can
minimise not only the standby consumption, but also the power consumption of the
appliance in operating mode.
18.104.22.168. The Networked Product
Remotely manageable network products are required to provide permanent access
to the network; therefore products cannot switch into standby without notification.
This is the case of small personal computers and digital television decoders – also
known as set-top boxes. Such networked products rely on sophisticated chips to
control their operation and have fairly complex power management system that
responds well to both external and internal requests. Currently such types of
products are left to work all the time.
A timer controlled time window that can be programmed through the network to
function during a predefined time period can help to reduce the power wastage.
However, this may not always be acceptable, especially when the service of the
appliance may be required at any moment. Industry’s focus now is to develop better
power management systems with very low power levels for networked appliances
that will never be switched off. Instantly Available is an Intel technology initiative that
enables PCs to retain connections and still be aggressively power managed. End-
users’ benefits include connectivity in the “off” state with low power consumption,
silent operation, and the possibility of resuming fast instead of rebooting. While the
full power demand is 80 W, the PC requires only around 5 W in sleep mode.*
22.214.171.124. Improving Efficiency of Components
Improving the efficiency of some components will help to reduce the standby power
as well as the overall energy consumption of an appliance. Apart from the power
supplies, other components whose efficiencies can be improved include voltage
regulators, integrated circuits and visual displays.
Some appliances require various voltage levels to operate different circuits.
Depending on the efficiency of the voltage regulator, some amount of power is
dissipated as heat. So the power losses increase with greater number of such
regulators. Ideally, the appliance should be designed to have fewer voltage levels to
reduce the number of voltage regulators. Moreover, efficient voltage regulators such
as the low-dropout types may be adopted to reduce the power loss effectively.
Efficient integrated circuits have been designed to economise energy use in battery-
operated products. Similar circuits could be adopted in appliances to limit standby
126.96.36.199. Cost Implications of Adopting Technologies to Reduce Standby Power
Though there have been substantial technological innovations to deal with standby
power consumption, it is difficult to assess the cost implications of bringing about
such changes in the final products. Costs involved in the redesigning, procurement
of alternative components and manufacturing may affect the final price the customer
has to pay. Thanks to the technological progresses made, incremental costs to
reduce the standby power of many appliances are quite low. In some cases, the
outcome has been cost savings and additional benefits.
Following the proposal of US EPA to limit standby power of audio and DVD products
to 2 W by January 2003 and 1 W after that date, a study was undertaken to analyse
different technology options and their added costs. It concluded that manufacturers
can meet EPA 2-W standby power limit without loss of product performance and at
estimated incremental costs ranging from minus US$ 2 to less than US$ 0.50 per
Given the pace of innovation and market trends, manufacturers should meet EPA 1-
W specification without loss of product performance at no incremental cost per
product unit. In some cases, cost savings are possible with the adoption of high-side
switcher or shifting from vacuum fluorescent displays (VFD) to liquid crystal displays
(LCD) that can reduce the standby load and allow the manufacturers to select less
expensive power supplies.
Even when technological improvements have minimal impacts on pricing, the
incremental costs are multiplied several-folds in the retail market. Manufacturers are
* For more details about “Instantly Available”, go to the web-site: http://developer.intel.com/
therefore reluctant to add any cost to their products in the fear that the price-
conscious customer may opt for another model sold at a slightly lower cost.
2.4.4. Policies to curtail standby power
With the technological advances and falling prices in the electronic sector, one can
expect greater proliferation of home and office electrical products, both in developing
as well as industrialised countries. One can therefore expect the standby power use
to account for an even greater share of electricity in the future. Eliminating
unnecessary electricity losses from standby consumption certainly provides an
attractive option for some governments who are struggling to find financial resources
to cope with the rapid growth in power demand and for others looking for alternatives
to reduce CO2 emissions in a cost-effective manner.
Several policy instruments addressing the different stakeholders and the different
levels of action can be used to tackle the problem of standby power losses.
Traditional policy instruments at the disposal of the governments can be classified
into 4 categories:
- Administrative instruments intervening in the form of direct regulatory restriction
within the market activities and dictating to various groups of stakeholders certain
product-related ways of action (e.g. setting minimum standards or rules as well
as the duty to label products);
- Economic instruments creating a general setting for free market activities (e.g.
taxes and charges, licenses, subsidies and incentives) and influencing the
purchasing patterns of public organisations or large institutions so that there is
some impact of their actions on the market;
- Negotiating solutions, agreements and co-operative deals, voluntary self-
obligations, general voluntary agreements between business community and
government by which both parties hope for benefits; and
- Information instruments such as general customer awareness campaigns and
product information by independent testing organisations.
The instruments actually selected by public authorities are much influenced by the
specific socio-economic conditions prevailing in the country. Lately, businesses and
industry are showing due concern and interest on the environmental impacts of their
economic activities and have taken proactive steps to address the national and
global concerns. This has resulted in better co-operation between industry and
government for eliminating least efficient products from the market and for
introducing new technologies that assure low power consumption.
The policy tools that are being adopted by governments in different parts of the world
are elaborated below.
Energy efficiency standards are procedures and regulations that are widely used
around the world to define the energy performance of products that are important
energy consumers. Most users of home appliances are not concerned about energy
efficiency and make purchasing decisions by taking into consideration features other
than energy, such as size, shape, colour, overall performance, price, etc.
Manufacturers naturally focus on those parameters during the designing and
production process and do not generally make adequate efforts to improve the
energy efficiency of their products. Standards ensure that efficiency is incorporated
into product design. In some instances, the sale of products not adhering to the
minimum standard is prohibited.
While aiming to eliminate less energy efficient products from the market, standards
take into consideration the cost-effective feature to achieve the target set. This
assures good acceptance and effective implementation of the regulation by the
industry, and results in very large energy savings.
Standards bring in changes in the behaviour of a limited number of manufacturers
instead of aiming at changing the behaviour of all end-users. The energy savings
achieved in practice are generally assured and can be easily quantified. While
implementing standards, all manufacturers, distributors and retailers are treated
Energy efficiency standards exist in many parts of the world for household
appliances and office equipment that consume high amount of energy in active
mode. But only a few of them include criteria for measuring the standby power. The
only existing standard for standby power that is purely regulatory is the “Top Runner”
programme in Japan.
Under the Swiss energy regulation, the first phase of regulation consists of voluntary
agreements. If voluntary agreements do not meet their objectives, ordinances are
put in place to enforce energy efficiency standards.
Regarding standby power consumption, the Swiss government has established
voluntary agreements with two industrial associations. Target values related to
standby and “off” mode energy consumption of 12 different categories of products
were put in place between 1993 and 1995 with target dates from 1995 to 1999. From
the 1st January 1999, the new energy law has superseded the energy consumption
regulations while it still retains the target value instrument.14
At the end of the defined period, 53 per cent of household appliances and 97 per
cent of office equipment had met the targets. The average standby power
consumption of new printers fell from 17 W in 1994 to 7 W in 1999. Although 40 per
cent of the printers had reduced their standby power use below 4 W, none of them
had attained the target of 2 W.
The effectiveness and acceptability of standards depend a lot on the time allocated
between the development of standards and their implementation. This is particularly
relevant in the context of standby power because the technology is evolving very
rapidly which can change the achievable standard within a very short span of time.
If the standard enforcement period is long, there is risk of the standard being
obsolete before it is implemented. On the other hand, if there is compulsion to
implement standards very fast, industry would find it difficult to cope with the required
technological changes and the unacceptable costs associated with it.
188.8.131.52. Voluntary Approaches
Voluntary agreements between industry and government enables industry to
negotiate goals that are achievable and cost-effective within the proposed time
frame. If targets are too strict, industry will not be attracted towards a voluntary
programme. On the other hand, very lenient target will not achieve any significant
savings. Experiences show that voluntary agreements have become very effective
and flexible instruments in many parts of the globe, particularly in minimising the
compliance costs to the industry. In some cases, the targets have not only been met
but also exceeded within the agreed time period.
Monitoring and reporting are the two key elements in voluntary agreements as they
can be effective in creating greater awareness. Some voluntary agreements require
mandatory monitoring and reporting while others depend on the self-assessment of
industries themselves. Yet another example is the contracting of a third party
organisation for monitoring the compliance of set targets.
As more and more products are being sold across borders, industry is evolving
voluntary standards for their universal acceptance and facilitating global trade.
Industry trade associations have also been instrumental in not only setting voluntary
standards, but also developing and adopting test methods for products. They take
into account the needs of the consumers as well as acceptability by the public
regulators. Typical examples of such associations actively involved in evolving
industrial standards are the American Association of Mechanical Engineers (ASME),
the British Standards Institution (BSI) and the Japanese Industrial Standards (JIS).
The Japanese industry associations are very active in launching voluntary activities
to reduce standby power consumption. The Japan Electronics and Information
Technology Industries Association (JEITA), the Japan Electrical Manufacturers’
Association (JEMA), and the Japan Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Industry
Association (JRAIA) have pledged to reduce the standby power of television, air
conditioner, audio system, and other household electrical appliances.15 For example,
the standby power of products in which standby power is integral to design will be
reduced to 1 W or lower by the end of 2003 (for air conditioners, the target is end of
2004). For other major household electrical appliances, the aim is to attain values as
close to zero as possible by the end of 2003.
Appliance labelling is a convenient tool for providing required information to the
consumer for making purchase decisions and selecting efficient models. Energy-
efficiency labels are affixed to manufactured products to describe their energy
performances. The effectiveness of energy labels depends on how information is
presented to the consumer. Moreover, most appliances sold in the market should be
labelled instead of only a few products. Further, if consumers do not make effort to
make distinction between efficient and inefficient appliances, increased awareness
and labelling may not have much effect.
Appliance labelling can provide an effective way to monitor the market and compile
information on market transformation. Public authorities and power utilities can use
labels as energy efficiency benchmarks to offer incentives for buying energy efficient
Product labelling can carry different types of information; it can be related to only the
energy performance of the equipment or to its many other attributes. Some labels
include environmental criteria, such as the environmental impact of using a specific
product, and are known as eco-labels. Mostly popular in Europe, these eco-labels
often include the electrical power consumption of the device, during operating and in
standby modes. Examples of such voluntary eco-labels include the EU eco-label
promoted by the European Union, the Baluer Engel (or the Blue Angel) in Germany,
and the Nordic Swan scheme in Finland, Norway and Sweden.
The most widely recognised labelling programme in the world is undoubtedly the
“Energy Star”, developed by the Environmental Protection Agency of the USA.
Operated jointly by the US EPA and the US Department of Energy (DOE), the
programme establishes partnerships to promote products that meet certain energy
efficiency and performance criteria cost-effectively.
According to the EPA, more than 100 million Energy Star compliant products were
sold in the USA in 1999 alone. As many Energy Star compliant products are
designed and manufactured by global multinational corporations and sold world-
wide, consumers in almost all parts of the world recognise the Energy Star logo. In
fact, the US EPA has licensed the Energy Star trademark to several countries,
including Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Taiwan, and negotiations are on with
the European Union and Canada.16
In Europe, the Group for Energy Appliances (GEA) was initially started as a
voluntary programme in 1996 (now established as a foundation since May 2001) in
order to improve the efficiency of mainly home electric and electronic appliances.
With a membership of energy agencies from 8 European countries and the
European Energy Network (EnR), GEA aims at uniform communication and co-
operation between European public and private energy agencies or organisations
and relevant parties, such as manufacturers, importers and the European
Each GEA member undertakes information campaigns that suit the national
consumer market. The GEA scheme is dynamic as criteria are revised regularly in
close co-operation with industry involved. GEA works in good partnership with
industry and industrial associations. The GEA label is voluntary in nature, which
indicates that appliances have energy performances that are within 25 per cent of
the most efficient products sold in the market.
184.108.40.206. Other Complementing Policies
Other policies complementing the ones described above include market
transformation initiatives, technology procurement programmes, introduction of
economic instruments, awareness campaigns, database development, etc. For
example, the IEA is developing an initiative on International Collaboration on Market
Transformation, with the main objective of increasing the market share of energy-
saving products and accelerating the use of the most efficient technologies. The
focus is on energy rating, labelling, quality marks, and procurement of energy-
efficiency products. The initiative will include information exchange and research and
co-operative market transformation projects that will allow interested countries to
jointly participate in accelerating market transformation.
Technology procurement programmes encourage innovation by guaranteeing the
purchase of very efficient products by large institutions and private companies; due
to the size of bulk purchase contracts, the cost of the product can be lowered
considerably. Moreover, the publicity gained by the technology supplier through the
procurement programme helps to enhance visibility and marketability of the product.
Since technology procurement is aimed at bringing in significant innovations in the
design of the product, the time period between the launching of procurement
contract and delivery of product can be lengthy. This can lead to some uncertainties
in the mind of the buyer about when the product will actually be delivered and
whether it will meet the defined energy efficiency criteria.
Economic instruments can provide incentive to the consumer for saving energy
through the purchase of more efficient appliances. Typical instruments include
energy taxes, tax credits, fees and rebates, etc.
Energy taxes increase the cost of energy and the energy bill of the consumer. Their
effectiveness depends on the response of the consumer in adopting energy cost
saving alternatives. If demand for energy efficient appliances increases and the
manufacturer makes efforts to meet this demand, then energy tax becomes an
Experience shows that energy taxes alone do not have a significant impact on the
energy efficiency of the product. However, tax credit or tax exemption measures are
found to be more effective in influencing the decision-making of consumers by
providing them direct financial incentives and increasing the demand for energy
Fees raise the cost of energy efficient products and rebates reward consumers for
buying more efficient products. When the two instruments are combined, the fees
collected from the sale of inefficient products can be channelled to finance rebates
for efficient products. Rebates have been offered by power utilities in several
countries to encourage the use of efficient electrical appliances and avoid the
construction of expensive power plants that would have been required to meet the
high demand during utility peak periods.
2.4.5. Future directions and need for international collaboration
Experiences gained around the globe show that voluntary labelling seems to be the
most widely accepted measure for addressing the issue of standby power losses. At
the same time, positive interaction and partnership between government and
industry have led to substantial innovative technological progresses, and targets
have been set realistically and met cost-effectively.
Despite the success of various initiatives reported, much needs to be done for
covering all products that consume standby power and for pushing majority of
products to reach the 1 W goal in standby mode. Most initiatives of the countries so
far do not separately deal with the issue of standby power use; they are generally
considered as an added feature to the energy efficiency standards and labels of the
The electronic industry is evolving very fast and the standby power consumption is
expected to rise further with the proliferation of new electronic products and
development of networked homes and offices. There is a consensus among policy
makers and stakeholders that it should be possible to decrease the standby power
consumption considerably at a much lower cost than that invested in power plants
which are simply run to provide the standby power. An added advantage of such
electricity savings will be the cost-effective reduction of CO2 emissions.
There are several global players involved in manufacturing and distributing home
and office electrical/electronic products. Differences in standards and their
implementation criteria laid out in different countries can create hurdles for these
players who have to spend more time and resources to comply with the specific
requirements of each country. With present market conditions, products
manufactured in one country are often distributed in many others; producers have to
plan their production schedule for manufacturing several versions of the same
appliance according to the demand. Due to the fierce competition in the market, any
increase in production costs for complying with standby power regulations cannot be
easily passed on to consumers.
The problem is further complicated by the fact the electronic industry is changing
very rapidly and more and more new products are introduced to the market. It will be
rather difficult for individual countries to cope with the rapid changes taking place in
These drawbacks call for co-ordinated efforts among countries for developing
universally accepted solutions that can transform the market and encourage
manufacturers in employing low-loss designs and components. Such international
co-operation can help to streamline the number of regulations and policies that vary
from one country to another, thereby reducing the administrative burdens and
associated costs on government programmes. They will also help manufacturers to
reach economies of scale for adopting advanced standby technologies and
management features into their products. By undertaking in-depth analysis of the
current situation at the global level in terms of the dynamics of the market, major
players, main barriers, etc., forecast can be made on the future market trends,
technological innovations, introduction of new products, market volume, etc.
Instead of duplicating efforts, existing regional and international forums and
programmes can be used as platforms for addressing standby power loss issues.
For example, the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) has an action
programme for energy that is working towards common action on standards and
protocols. The objectives are an increased harmonisation of energy standards of
products and appliances for reducing costs to both governments and businesses.
Similarly, the International Energy Agency (IEA) which primarily deals with energy
issues for developed countries, can provide legal frameworks for international co-
operation and facilitate the evolution of an international approach to standby power.
International collaboration should aim at establishing an international voluntary
programme that takes into account views and achievements of industries and
governments, and harmonise the existing regulatory schemes. It will help to avoid
the proliferation of labels and labelling schemes launched by individual countries and
eliminate the confusion created for the industry. In this context, the Energy Star
programme of the US EPA seems to have a world-side acceptance in view of its
adoption by several countries around the globe and on-going negotiations with some
governments. An International Energy Star programme could be adopted for defining
the limits of standby power use, and harmonised with existing regulatory schemes,
such as the Top Runner Programme.
Countries in the Asia-Pacific region who have just taken note of the magnitude of the
problem and/or have not yet set up policies and programmes to deal with standby
power losses can actively support and participate in such an international voluntary
programme that could:
- develop guidelines for lowering standby power of existing as well as new
appliances and products;
- enhance voluntary agreements with the industry;
- initiate research and development activities with industry participation for
exploring new techno-economic solutions to reduce standby power use;
- help in revising the existing energy labels of appliances to include information on
standby power use (No need is perceived for evolving a separate label for
indicating the standby power use of appliances).
This will allow the countries of the region to concentrate their efforts on educating
and informing consumers about the issue of standby power, thus accelerating the
demand for energy efficient products and appliances.
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