Computers (desktops, laptops, tablets) currently account for 3 percent of home electric bills and 7 percent of commercial power costs in the state of California. While that may not seem like much, the numbers are expected to rise as computer use—and technology in general—will, of course, rise steadily over the next few years and beyond. And to stay ahead of that trend, regulators in California have proposed the first mandatory US energy efficiency standards for computers and monitors.
The most recent draft standard issued by the California Energy Commission—this marks the second revision of the rules which were first proposed in March of 2015—suggests that the regulation would save consumers an estimated $373 million, collectively, per year, once it is fully implemented.
Of course, monetary savings is attractive to consumers, but according to the Natural Resources Defense Council—an environmental group focused on establishing these standards—commented they have a plan to cut greenhouse gas emission from all fossil fuel combustion power generation by upwards of 700,000 tons a year.
However, the NRDC has is now urging the CEC to avoid loopholes that would allow for special exemptions or credits for premium computer features that, while maybe not quite so common now, will become more mainstream by the time these standards go into action.
The NRDC goes on to explain that computers and monitors draw roughly 5,610 gigawatt-hours of electricity (the equivalent of the 3:7 ratio mentioned above). Unfortunately, most of that power is consumed while the devices sit idle (and not turned off). If there were a complete turnover in existing devices—either in practice or in the adoption of new devices—the total amount of power consumed (wasted) could be reduced by as much as one third.
The plan would be for the first phase of the new rules to be set forth in January of 2018 for workstations and small-scale servers and then in January 2019 for all desktop and notebook-style computers. Finally, regulations for computer monitors—17 inches or larger—would take effect in July of 2019.
The NRDC says that desktop standards—which devour more energy than notebooks—should add only about $14 to the total retail cost of computers. However, the new standard will save consumers more than $40 in electric bills over a five year period.
California often leads the country in green initiatives and if this one were adopted nationwide, it could save consumers in the US roughly $2.2 billion per year in electric bills and reduce energy generation by the equivalent output of approximately seven coal-based power plants