03 Jul 18

Why we shouldn’t lower our guard on standby waste

2.4 billion – this is what consumers will pay if the Commission proposal on energy efficiency thresholds for standby consumption of products is postponed by 3 years.

Ten years ago, the European Union agreed to tackle the shocking waste of electricity stemming from our appliances when they are doing virtually nothing, that is in standby and off modes. Astonishingly, high power levels were engulfed just by maintaining our equipment asleep. Through a catch-all Ecodesign Regulation, manufacturers were required to limit these levels, one of the most successful energy efficiency measures ever. It helped save 35 TWh/year of electricity, equivalent to the production of 16 average-sized coal power units.  

Reacting to the boom for new gadgets and devices entering our homes and offices, especially connected ones, Europe amended the regulation in 2013 to address network standby (i.e. sleep mode of products that remain constantly connected to a network to allow their reactivation).

The promise of the Internet of Things is a potential nightmare in terms of standby losses, as Friends of the Earth Germany highlights in a recent report. They conclude that new networked appliances like “smart” dishwashers, fridges, lighting and kettles could imply an increased standby consumption in Europe corresponding to the annual energy consumption of all Spanish households! Hence the need to keep this huge additional energy (and money) consumption to a minimum with an up to date regulation.

The EU Regulation on standby and network standby requires a serious reworking, and this process started 3 years ago. The Commission put a revision proposal on the table in late 2017, which foresees a slightly larger scope, lower power limits for off modes and a confirmation of strict limits for networked standby by 2019, that could lead to 17 TWh of electricity savings per year by 2030, as much as the residential consumption of Austria.

Alas, the European Commission seems now reluctant to proceed with the adoption, putting at risk these massive savings. There is no clear justification to not including it in the upcoming “Ecodesign package”, which will be Juncker’s one and unique shot at adopting such measures under his term. No need to say that it could postpone the adoption of a new standby regulation for years.

According to ECOS calculations, a 3-year delay on the entry into force of the new provisions would cost EU consumers € 2.4 billion on their energy bills. A shame, considering that fighting pure waste should be an instinctive move nowadays.