Drive against energy-greedy office equipment moves forward

The energy efficiency of computers and other office equipment is to get a boost when the EU and US negotiate higher standards for the Energy Star labelling scheme.

The Energy Star label points consumers in the direction of less wasteful computers, printers, copiers and fax machines, adding to the EU’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit the reliance on foreign oil and gas imports.

But as Europeans buy more office equipment that is increasingly powerful at the same time, the growth in energy use may outstrip energy efficiency savings, the European Commission believes.

The EU, which cooperates with the US on the scheme, will start negotiating new, more demanding energy efficiency standards for the Energy Star label as soon as it is granted permission from the Council.

Office equipment accounts for around 5% of the EU’s total electricity use, making it a significant – and the fastest growing – consumer of electricity in the EU.

But it is also the sector with the highest energy saving potential, as similar devices consume widely varying amounts of electricity.

A computer and printer can eat up anything from 40 kWh up to 400 kWh annually, for example – giving a ten-fold saving for the most energy-efficient models.

This translates into annual energy bill savings of up to 200 euro, the Energy Star initiative tells consumers.

The labelling scheme started in 1992 as a US Energy Protection Agency initiative, then spread across other parts of the world including Japan, Australia, Korea. The European Union joined in 2001.

Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs commented: “Joining efforts effectively fosters energy efficiency while avoiding trade barriers. As office equipment is traded worldwide, cooperation with our partners overseas is of utmost importance.”

The scheme functions as part of the EU strategy to cut energy end use. A wider EU energy efficiency programme was proposed last December, but the final draft failed to make the EU-wide target of cutting energy use by 1% binding, drawing criticism from environmental groups.

More information on the Energy Star initiative can be found here.

By Goska Romanowicz

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