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Online Electronics Waste Power

by Jeff Johnson
July 14, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 28

Credit: Shutterstock
Many consumers are unaware that devices such as modems are energy inefficient.
DSL modem
Credit: Shutterstock
Many consumers are unaware that devices such as modems are energy inefficient.

The world’s 14 billion online electronic devices—modems, computers, television set-top boxes, game consoles, and printers—waste about $80 billion per year in electricity lost to inefficiency, the International Energy Agency says in a study released last week. IEA notes that these devices are tied to the Internet and are communicating whether or not they are in use, consequently drawing electricity. The use and connectivity of these network-enabled devices is growing rapidly worldwide, IEA adds, and the number of such devices is expected to reach 50 billion by 2020. Increasingly through application of “smart” technologies, appliances as varied as refrigerators and lighting systems are interacting through network communication electronics. The report says there are few market drivers to reduce inefficiency of electronic devices because consumers are often unaware of the waste, so manufacturers have little incentive to improve efficiency. The exception is mobile devices, the report says, where consumers want long battery life and infrequent downtimes for charges. For other applications, the report urges policy changes and government market intervention to encourage efficiency improvements.


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