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Voluntary Specs or Mandatory Standards?

Mon, 02/11/2008 - 10:24 -- MrGreen

June 13, 2007 – If you design or manufacture power supplies, you may be afraid to check your morning email, anticipating news of yet another energy efficiency specification bubbling up from somewhere in the world.

I’ve been to regulatory meetings in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia already this year. What’s more, there are activities in India, Korea, China and elsewhere that I could have gone to if I had a really big travel budget.

Why is all this happening? Why all the focus on reducing electricity use? Well, it’s being driven by the fear of global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions—as you may be aware, power plants generate up to 40% of the world’s CO2 emissions.

That’s not all, of course. What once sounded to many people like like alarmist eco-yadda now sounds like a vote winner for politicians. So power supply designers and manufacturers can look forward to a constant stream of energy efficiency specifications, dictating everything from maximum no-load and standby power consumption (including different levels of standby) to minimum allowable active-on mode efficiency. In short, be afraid, be very afraid.

Voluntary or mandatory?
Some prefer voluntary rules. ENERGY STAR programs allow compliant manufacturers to use the ENERGY STAR logo as part of their marketing strategy.

Others insist on mandatory standards. The California Energy Commission’s (CEC) Appliance Efficiency Regulations prohibit selling any external power supply (EPS) or product bundled with an EPS in the state that doesn’t meet the minimum efficiency requirements.

Given that people and politicians are worried about greenhouse gases and global warming, will power supply designers and manufacturers be allowed to volunteer or be told to comply?

Next time, I’ll talk about the pluses and minuses for designers either way.