Two recently released studies clashed last week over the
effects of electronics on energy consumption.
and Gigawatts, a publication of the International
Energy Agency (IEA), warned that the energy consumed by electronic devices will
double by 2022 and triple by 2030, requiring the addition of about 280 GW of
new generating capacity worldwide. The American
Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) meanwhile weighed in with
a study saying the U.S.
economy could expand by more than 70 percent through 2030 and still use 11 percent less
electricity than it did in 2008. With the right policies in place, the study
says, the U.S.
could eliminate the need for 296 power plants.
At an ACEEE press conference last
week, representatives from the organization and from such companies as Texas Instruments, National Semiconductor and Xilinx described a disparity between the way
the public views high technology and the reality of high-tech energy
consumption. "One of the reasons we were interested in doing this particular
report was to test the notion many people have about high-tech," said John A.
Laitner, director of economic and social analysis for the ACEEE. He said the organization and its members use the term "high-tech energy paradox" to
describe the "disconnect" between the perception and the reality.
Although ACEEE members did not cite
Gadgets and Gigawatts by name, the IEC study appears to project the kind
of public perception that's raising their concerns. Gadgets says electronic devices such as televisions, laptops and mobile phones could
jeopardize efforts to reduce emission of greenhouse gases. The Paris-based watchdog
agency says during the next seven months, the number of people using
personal computers will pass the one billion mark. It says there are
nearly two billion television sets already in use. IEA executive director Nobuo
Tanaka declared in a press release that electronic products "would also cost
households around the world USD 200 billion in electricity bills and require
the addition of approximately 280 Gigawatts of new generating capacity between
now and 2030."
The ACEEE says it has been
fighting such perceptions for some time. Its study, called Semiconductor Technologies: The
Potential To Revolutionize U.S. Energy Productivity, says
while semiconductor-enabled technology does require electricity to drive it, it
actually reduces the level of energy that would have otherwise been consumed
without it. Laitner told listeners if the U.S. had relied on the technology
available in 1976 to support today's economy, the country would have had to
build another 184 power plants to satisfy the growing demands.
"When people focus narrowly on
specific semiconductor-enabled devices, they are literally missing the big
picture about how the industry is performing," Laitner said.
Representatives of the ACEEE argued
that much of the information in consumer media articles has misstated the facts
about electronic energy consumption and has used "scare tactics" to deter consumers.
John Perzow, a marketing director for Analog Devices' Power Management Group
who worked on the ACEEE study, cited media articles that incorrectly stated
that LCD televisions use more energy than their CRT counterparts. Recent
studies have shown that LCD monitors use 30 percent less energy in full-power mode and
40 percent less in standby, he said.
Industry proponents also pointed to
last week's Associated
Press story about Gadgets and Gigawatts that employed a photo of a
polar bear and declared, "Charge your iPod, kill a polar bear?"
"The public is led to believe that
new gadgets waste power, when actually they can help reduce energy consumption
while helping the economy," Perzow said.