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News : Innovation Last Updated: Jul 2, 2014 - 2:33 PM


World’s 14bn online electronic devices waste US$80bn each year
By Finfacts Team
Jul 2, 2014 - 11:59 AM

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Today, the world’s 14bn online electronic devices – such as set-top boxes, modems, printers and game consoles – waste around US$80bn each year because of inefficient technology. By 2020, the problem will considerably worsen, with an estimated USD 120bn wasted. But a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA)   points to a different path, identifying simple measures that can be implemented now to improve energy efficiency in networked devices, resulting in massive savings of energy and money.

The IEA was established in Paris in 1974 as an energy watchdog for industrialized countries. It has 28 members including Ireland.

The report, 'More Data, Less Energy: Making Network Standby More Efficient in billions of Connected Devices' shows that electricity demand of our increasingly digital economies is growing at an alarming rate. While data centre energy demand has received much attention, of greater cause for concern is the growing energy demand of billions of networked devices. In 2013, a relatively small portion of the world’s population relied on these devices to stay connected. But energy demand is increasing as a growing share of the world’s population becomes wired and as network connectivity spreads to devices and appliances that were previously not connected, such as washing machines, refrigerators, lights and thermostats.

“The proliferation of connected devices brings many benefits to the world, but right now the cost is far higher than it should be,” said Maria van der Hoeven, IEA executive director today. “Consumers are losing money in the form of wasted energy, which is leading to more costly power stations and more distribution infrastructure being built than we would otherwise need - - not to mention all the extra greenhouse gases that are being emitted. But it need not be this way. If we adopt best available technologies we can minimise the cost of meeting demand as the use and benefits of connected devices grows.”

The report says much of the problem boils down to inefficient “network standby” - - that is, the maintaining of a network connection while in standby. In many devices, standby is a misnomer: it suggests that the device has gone to sleep and is almost off. In reality, most network-enabled devices draw as much power in this mode as when activated to perform their main tasks.

In 2013, the world’s networked devices consumed around 616 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity, the majority of which was used in standby mode. Of that total, around 400 TWh - - equivalent to the electricity consumed annually by the United Kingdom and Norway combined - -  was wasted because of inefficient technology.

Factsheet [pdf]

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