All across the world, there is a new threat to our electrical power needs: appliances and devices that are in standby mode. A new report from the International Energy Agency in Paris, France, estimates that these billions of electronic devices are wasting enough electricity to power 80 percent of Canada’s total power needs, or $80 billion USD.
These types of electronics are the ones that are always connected to networks, making them accessible from anywhere. A good example of this is a cable box, 160 million of which are owned by Americans alone: despite their “standby” status, these boxes still draw their full fill of electricity whether or not the box is being used to watch or record TV shows, says the report.
Another culprit is any device hooked up to a network ready to be used or connected to at any moment.
Each device using this power results in tens of dollars per year per device, according to Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of IEA. “This may not sound like much, but in 2013, the cumulative impact of 14 billion such devices was… unnecessary operation of over 130 midsized coal plants producing around 400 terawatt-hours of electricity and all the pollution and carbon emissions that goes with it,” said van der Hoeven.
The problem could continue to grow, however, given how many more devices are being connected, including washing machines, refrigerators, thermostats, and coffee makers with programmable features. In 2013, the agency reported an average of 10 network-enabled devices in homes with two teenagers in developed countries. By 2022, IEA estimates that number will be around 50 devices per home.
Van der Hoeven concluded that the world’s networked devices are inefficient in their use of energy, and even devices looking for WiFi signals, like cable boxes and printers, use just as much energy seeking a signal as they do when they perform their main functions.
There are several power saving solutions that Americans and others around the world can utilize to curb their energy consumption. Using Energy Star appliances is a good way to save power and receive tax breaks.
Shutting off devices that aren’t being used and limiting the number of electronics and network devices left on when sleeping or away from home are also good strategies.
Overall, the report concludes that the world’s developed nations need better policies and technological advancements to reduce this waste. If nothing is done, however, IEA says that this consumption could double by 2025.