As consumer electronics proliferate, per-home electricity use falls

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Despite their higher market penetration in U.S. homes, consumer electronics now account for a lower percentage of electricity usage per household than they did three years ago, according to research by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

According to the study, consumer electronics devices accounted for just 12 percent of residential electricity consumption in the U.S. last year, a nine percent drop from their energy consumption share in 2010 (13.2 percent).

“This comprehensive assessment of consumer electronics energy consumption is a significant contribution to the understanding of energy efficiency trends within our industry,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of CEA. “Rapid changes in the energy consumption characteristics of high-tech devices make it essential to develop up-to-date and accurate assessments of energy usage. And it’s clear the energy efficiency improvements for consumer electronics are best driven by innovation, competition, voluntary agreements and programs such as Energy Star."

Within consumer electronics' 12 percent share of total residential energy consumption in 2013, televisions accounted for 30 percent, set-top boxes 18 percent and computers 13 percent. While televisions continue to be the most widely owned consumer electronics device in the U.S. with 97 percent household penetration in 2013, their unit energy consumption is declining due to innovations in display technologies. The total annual electricity consumption of televisions dropped 23 percent from 2010, as efficiency levels increased and the use of cathode ray tube (analog) televisions declined.

“The Environmental Protection Agency applauds the electronics industry for the efficiency innovation that underlies the findings of this new study,” said Ann Bailey, director of the Energy Star Products Program. “This is further evidence that American consumers don’t have to sacrifice to save energy and help protect the climate.”

“Long-standing programs like Energy Star and new-model approaches such as the recent set top box voluntary agreement prove that energy efficiency is best achieved when the public and private sectors work together,” said Doug Johnson, vice president of technology policy at CEA. “In the rapidly-changing world of electronics devices and high-tech products, these voluntary and market-driven approaches are the only methods that can keep pace with technology, protect innovation and competition, and still achieve efficiency goals. If older data is used to analyze potential energy policy decisions, such as voluntary or mandatory regulatory programs, it can lead to less effective policy decisions that may not achieve the end goals.”

This is the third major study CEA has commissioned to quantify the electricity consumption of consumer electronics in U.S. households. The two prior studies focused on consumer electronics in homes in 2006 and 2010. The latest study covers 17 priority products comprising 80 percent of the residential energy use of consumer electronics, plus an additional 29 other products that make up the remaining 20 percent. Relative to other energy end uses, the consumer electronics end-use characteristics typically change very quickly due to innovation and shorter product cycles.

According to the study, U.S. households were actively using nearly 3.8 billion consumer electronics devices in 2013 spanning 46 discrete technology categories and consuming an estimated 169 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity. The prior study reported 2.9 billion devices were in use in 2010 across 35 discrete technology categories and consumed an estimated 193 TWh.

“As the Alliance pursues the goal of doubling energy productivity in the U.S. by 2030, it’s essential that we understand and account for energy-use trends and efficiency gains across all industry sectors, including electronics," said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy. "We applaud CEA for its commitment to accuracy in conducting and sharing these studies, which provide invaluable insight to both policymakers and the broader energy efficiency community.”

“Good energy-efficiency policy depends on having good and current data,” said Assembly Member Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), chairman of the California Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. “Especially for the fast-moving, innovative consumer electronics industry, it’s crucial for policy makers to understand the latest energy and technology trends in order to recognize the best policy approaches.”

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