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IEA: Gadgets becoming global energy hog

two-mobile-phonesFollowing its finding that energy consumption by electronic devices will double by 2022, the International Energy Agency (IEA) is calling on governments to urgently implement policies to make electronic devices such as televisions, laptops and mobile phones more energy-efficient.

“(D)espite anticipated improvements in the efficiency of electronic devices, these savings are likely to be overshadowed by the rising demand for technology in OECD and non-OECD countries,” said IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka. Tanaka made his comments in Paris upon presenting the IEA’s new report, “Gadgets and Gigawatts.”

The IEA study finds that, over the next seven months, the number of people using a personal computer will pass the one billion mark. Electronic devices currently account for 15 per cent of household electricity consumption but their share is rapidly rising. Already, there are nearly 2 billion television sets in use, with an average of over 1.3 sets in each home having access to electricity. Over half the global population subscribes to a mobile telephone service, and the number of external power supplies associated with many electronic devices now exceeds 5.5 billion.

Without new policies, the energy consumed by information and communications technologies, as well as consumer electronics, will double by 2022 and increase threefold by 2030 to 1,700 terawatt hours (TWh), the IEA report predicts. This will jeopardise efforts to increase energy security and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

“This increase up to 1,700 TWh is equivalent to the current combined total residential electricity consumption of the United States and Japan,” Tanaka said. “It would also cost households around the world $200 billion (US) in electricity bills and require the addition of approximately 280 gigawatts of new generating capacity between now and 2030.”

Despite those projections, “Gadgets and Gigawatts” finds that opportunities for energy savings are considerable. Electricity consumption from residential information and communications technologies and consumer electronics devices could be cut by more than half through the use of the best available technology and processes that are currently available. This would slow growth in consumption to less than 1 per cent a year through 2030.

That level of energy saving would represent a reduction to consumer energy bills of over $130 billion (US) in 2030 and the avoidance of 260 gigawatts  in additional power generation capacity — more than the current electrical generating capacity of Japan.

“Many mobile devices are already far more efficient in their use of power than other devices which run off a main electricity supply,” Tanaka said. “Because extending the battery life of a mobile device is a selling point, manufacturers place an emphasis on designing products which require very little power. This example shows us what can be achieved. Where no such commercial drivers exist, governments must step in to ensure that we make the most of every energy efficiency opportunity.”

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