lundi 11 janvier 2010

Fwd: Kyoto Action Report -- Losing Our Energy Fat

Losing Our Energy Fat     

In the previous Kyoto Action Report I quoted two prominent international economists, Paul Krugman and Sir Nicholas Stern. Both made the same point that Kyoto Action has always emphasized: the most important first step in curbing global warming and climate change is not sacrificing our living standards or the world economy, but eliminating the lazy and wasteful ways we use energy both at home and in the office.

In official documents and studies, this is technically referred to as the "energy efficiency gap", or more simply, our "energy fat index".  And just as body fat threatens our health, so does our excessive energy fat damage the environment.


Reality Check

Today the average home and office are crammed with electronic devices that have chargers or converters, or which must be left in standby mode when not in use. Though this may seem inconsequential and harmless, the contrary is all too true. On a national and global scale these devices cause a significant drain on energy production, which in turn produces more greenhouse gas emissions. Experts refer to these plugged-in devices and components as "energy vampires".

Recently the Union of Concerned Scientists cited a national home energy study done in 2007 in the U.S. That study estimated the amount of wasted energy from standby appliances and plugged-in chargers and converters in U.S. homes. Below are the key figures.

Total waste… 65 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, yearly.

Cost to U.S. consumers... $5.8 billion annually.

Environmental damage... 44 million tons of CO2 dumped into the atmosphere each year, not to mention the associated mercury released from burning the coal to generate this electricity.


Here's another sobering statistic about our energy waste. A UK national energy study determined that 6 - 10 percent of its national energy generation was wasted each year due to standby appliances and plugged-in chargers/converters doing nothing while home owners were at work during the day and asleep at night.

In parallel with the U.S., the European Commission for Energy did its own study of the energy waste from plugged-in chargers/converters and standby appliances in offices and homes throughout the twenty-five countries comprising the European Union in 2007. The results stunned the Commission: the energy waste nearly equaled the entire electricity consumption of Greece. The primary numbers are similar to those for the U.S., which show Europeans are not far behind Americans in energy vampire devices:

Total waste… 48 billion kilowatt-hours per year.

Cost to EU consumers… €6.5 billion ($9.3 billion, £5.8 billion) annually.

Environmental damage... 19.3 million tonnes of CO2 dumped into the atmosphere each year (plus mercury).

This energy waste extends worldwide throughout Asia and Australia. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that this standby energy drain results in an additional 40 million tons of CO2 each year.

[Sources:;; ; European Commission for Energy]


Take Action

Here are some of the best ways to quickly and easily lose "energy fat":

Just turn it OFF. Train yourself to turn off lights, electronic systems, and appliances when you leave the room, even for 15 minutes. When I first started to turn things off when leaving a room,  my electricity bill dropped 18 percent!

But be forewarned: many of our devices today actually don't turn off when you push the OFF button. Read further.

Disconnect the 'energy vampires' in your home. Some dark (but not necessarily rainy) night switch off all the lights and take a look around. What you'll see is a galaxy of little pin-points of light and glowing panels on desktops, in corners, on shelves, under tables, and on kitchen counter-tops. These show you where your 'vampires' are, constantly sucking electricity day and night, while your are asleep or at work.

These 'vampires' are our electronic devices and appliances in Standby mode like televisions, audio-visual systems, Internet connection boxes, play stations, microwave ovens, high-tech stoves, cordless phones, etc.

Then there are those devices that need plug-in chargers and converters to function, such as portable computers, digital printers, cell phones, digital agendas, digital photo and video equipment, etc.

Here's how to take control of these 'vampires':

Get rid of plug-in digital or LED display clocks and clock-radios that constantly use as much energy as a 40-watt light bulb. Use instead a wrist watch or rely on the time/date display of your cell phone or digital agenda (DA), which use a lot less energy for the same function. Also, use cell phones and DAs for your alarm clock instead of a plug-in clock-radio or alarm clock.

Use power strips (or surge suppressors). These multi-socket outlet extensions are equipped with an on/off switch so you can completely disconnect power to all attached devices with just a press of your big toe. Power strips are a lot more convenient than trying to unplug each device every night before going to bed, going off to work, or leaving on a trip, and they make it easy to power-up again later.

Note: Switching off a surge suppressor does not disable its protection against power spikes.

A power strip is a multi-plug extension equipped with a foot switch

that lets you turn off all power to plugged-in chargers, converters, and/or standby appliances.


Unplug chargers when not recharging your portable computer, camera, cell phone, etc. Many people don't realize that these chargers use power even when they are not connected to the devices they recharge. If you see a light and/or it feels warm, it's using power. 

Avoid 'Standby' mode in remote-control appliances such as televisions, stereos, DVD players, when you are not using them. New models allow you to turn off Standby by pressing the power button on the front panel. If your appliance doesn't have this feature, then plug it into its own power strip and use the foot switch to turn off all power to that appliance.

Do use 'Standby' for computers. Computer 'Standby' saves energy when the computer is idle during the day, for instance, when you're out to lunch, in a meeting, or taking a coffee break. Don't confuse Standby with Screen Saver mode, which comes on automatically when the computer is idle. Screen Saver only reduces power to the screen display, not the computer.  When clicking Standby, don't forget to also switch off the power button on the screen display.

However, never use computer Standby mode when you leave the office overnight or go to bed. Instead, turn the computer completely off. Click 'Turn Off' to power off the computer. To turn desktop models completely off, you must then push the power buttons on the screen display and the computer box.

Switch Off Internet ADSL/cable boxes overnight. These boxes consume a significant amount of power and should not be left on overnight when you are asleep and have no need for Internet or cable service. The box I have has no power switch, so I've plugged it into my power strip which allows me to turn off everything in my home office with one switch before going to bed. This also turns off my phone service, but callers can still leave messages that I can hear in the morning when I switch things back on. If you need constant phone service (e.g., for children or parents), leave your cell phone on; it uses a lot less energy than a combo cable box.

Power strip your microwave. The clock displays on microwave ovens that are always on even when the oven is not in use can consume a lot of energy. Estimates have shown that each year these clock displays cost owners nearly $11 (7.80 € or £7 ) per year, even if you never use the microwave. You could probably multiply this figure by all the other gadgets around your home that 'conveniently' display the time when doing nothing. This situation adds a new meaning to the phrase: "Time is money!" — that is, as bonuses for the executives of your power company! Get tough with these appliances by plugging them into a power strip so you can switch the power on only when you use them.

By taking all the steps above, we can stop wasting energy and money on appliances that do nothing.

 Dennis Shibut
(Creator of the Kyoto Action website, MS Physics, member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, former researcher for NASA and US Coast & Geodetic Survey)

Special thanks to Kath Massam and Mary Podevin for their assistance in preparing this report.

Please forward this message to all those on your personal mailing list who would be interested in its content. And thank you in advance for doing so.

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