IEA expects energy use by new electronic devices to triple by 2030 but sees considerable room for more efficiency

(Paris) — 13 May 2009

The International Energy Agency (IEA) calls on governments to urgently implement policies to make electronic devices such as televisions, laptops and mobile phones more energy-efficient. Presenting the new IEA publication Gadgets and Gigawatts today in Paris, IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka said “that despite 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”.

The IEA study finds that over the next seven months, the number of people using a personal computer will pass the 1 billion mark. Electronic devices currently account for 15% 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 subscribe 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). 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”, said Mr. Tanaka. “It would also cost households around the world USD 200 billion in electricity bills and require the addition of approximately 280 Gigawatts (GW) of new generating capacity between now and 2030”.

Gadgets and Gigawatts finds that opportunities for 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 which are currently available. This would slow growth in consumption to less than 1% per annum through 2030. This level of energy saving represents a reduction to consumer energy bills by over USD 130 billion in 2030 and the avoidance of 260 GW 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,” explained Mr. Tanaka. “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.”

Some of these savings can be achieved through better equipment and components, but the largest improvement opportunity must come from making hardware and software work together more effectively to ensure that energy is only used when, and to the extent needed. To deliver these savings, strong public policies are needed. In particular, given that new devices increasingly offer a variety of functions, each of which may have differing energy needs, policies are needed that set maximum energy budgets for each function.

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