June 15, 2007 – The Loneliest Number
Contrary to Three Dog Night’s 1969 hit song, the number “1” may not be the loneliest number after all, at least if worldwide governments and energy efficiency commissions trying to reduce standby energy waste have their way.
While monitoring energy efficiency activity, I’ve noticed a trend to simplify setting the maximum standby power consumption that EuPs (Energy using Products) can suck out of your wall outlet when they’re supposedly turned off. In the immortal words of the Three Musketeers (well, kind of): 1 W for all and all for 1 W! That is, whatever the product, it cannot consume more than 1 W while in its standby mode. This concept is referred to as the “horizontal 1 W standby spec”.
Standby, Who Cares?
Who cares about standby energy? We all should. Last month, I flew to Brussels (long flight, but great chocolate) to attend the European Commission’s EcoDesign stakeholder meeting on Lot 6, Standby and Off-mode Losses of EuPs. Data presented showed that over 80 TWh (TeraWatt-Hours) were wasted by EuPs in European homes and offices due to standby and off-mode losses! (For more info, go to www.ecostandby.org ).
Standardizing on 1 W is not a new concept. Almost a decade ago, Dr. Alan Meier of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory presented his “One Watt Standby Plan” to the International Appliance Energy Efficiency Conference in Florence, Italy. Since then, there’s been a lot of talk about standardizing around it, but not a lot of coordinated action until very recently.
One early bright spot, ironically, came from Washington, DC (if you guessed Al Gore, keep reading) and a President not normally associated with the color green, George W. Bush. It’s true! The administration blazed the 1 W horizontal standby trail when, in 2001, the President signed Executive Order 13221, requiring the federal government to purchase products with low standby, preferably below 1 W. (Note to George: if you’re looking for positive accomplishments to add your legacy list, don’t forget this one!)
Other countries are jumping aboard the horizontal 1 Watt standby train. In 2004, Korea announced its intent to bring the standby of electronic products to below 1 Watt by 2010. Late last year, while I was at the International Standby Power Conference in Australia, the Australian government announced that they would achieve the same by 2012. Others are sure to follow.