“Standby mode” wastes $80 billion of power annually

Plugged In - Andy Melton

By JAMES NOBLE

July 10, 2014

Over USD $80 billion worth of power was wasted in 2013 because of inefficient electronic devices. By staying in “standby mode” to remain connected, the world’s devices are using the equivalent of all the electricity consumed annually by the UK and Norway combined.

For the average household, this means tens of dollars for every device each year in additional energy costs. While this may not seem significant, the cumulative impact of 14 billion such devices – smart phones, tablets and game consoles – worldwide is staggering.

The problem is only expected to get worse, as homes become more connected and household items like refrigerators, toasters and even coffee pots are brought online.

According to a report by International Energy Agency (IEA) report, in 2013 there was an average of 10 network-enabled devices for every four-person household. By 2022, that number is expected to soar to 50.

The IEA suggests that the idea of a “standby mode” can often be misleading. While standby might infer that the device has gone to sleep and is almost off, the agency found that this is not the case. In reality, most networked-enabled devices draw as much power in standby mode as when activated to perform their primary functions.

Regulations could drive efficiency improvements, with software developers designing solutions to stem the power waste, manufacturers integrating the changes, Internet service provides deploying more efficient equipment, and consumers making better choices in buying and running devices.

Some work is already underway in Canada, with officials working with counterparts in Europe and the United States to develop policies to encourage manufacturers to adopt the most energy-efficient technology for network-connected devices.

Vancouver-based  TSO Logic is one Canadian company that’s trying to be part of the solution. TSO Logic’s power management software determines how much of a data center’s power draw is going toward revenue-generating activities compared idle servers wasting power. This insight allows corporations to save electricity without sacrificing performance by automatically controlling the power state of servers based on application demand.

With the continued proliferation of networked devices, it is clear that something needs to be done. The good news is that estimates suggest that new standards could result in a 65% reduction in energy use by networked devices. Until then, perhaps the phrase “think green, keep it on the screen” should be used a little less often.

 

Photo Credit: Andy Melton