The federal government should encourage both industry players and consumers to adopt the US EPA Energy Star program in a bid to increase the energy efficiency of personal computers and monitors in use across Australia, according to a new report.
And both the federal and state governments should lead by example, by purchasing only Energy Star rated products wherever possible, the report, prepared for The Australian government's Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), says.
The draft Personal Computer and Monitors Energy Efficiency Strategy, prepared by ICT consultant and ACS director of professional development and founding chair of the ACS Green ICT group Tom Worthington, is based on the premise that Australia should set a target of a 50 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. This would contribute a 1 percent overall reduction in greenhouse emissions.
Energy Star is the international standard for energy efficient electronic equipment created by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 and now adopted by several countries around the world, including Australia. Worthington, asked by DEWHA to prepare the report, with input from industry, for its, Equipment Energy Efficiency Program (E3), recommends that while the program would be voluntary, those companies which did not offer Energy Star rated products and did not provide details of them on the web would be excluded from government tenders.
Worthington points out that neither the ICT industry nor users currently have little direct financial incentive to demand highly efficient PCs. The ICT section of an organization is responsible for equipment purchase, but the benefits of energy efficiency in reduced energy and air-conditioning costs will normally flow to he facilities management section. Home computer users will be unable to see the savings of a more efficient computer in their quarterly household energy bills.
However, energy use is becoming more visible due to climate change. Incentives for improved energy efficiency are emerging as market demand, and regulatory push, for reporting on various indices of efficiency and sustainability gain traction and recognition. Many individuals and industry participants acknowledge that there is much that can be done to improve the efficiency of the installed base of PCs and monitors, and to ensure more efficient systems are designed and built.
“Given the rate of turnover of PCs and monitors, it is possible that Australia will be able to reduce the relative energy used for PCs and monitors over the coming decade with little effort. However adoption of a strategy should significantly accelerate this and reduce the energy consumed and the emissions produced, per unit of services provided, as well as in absolute terms. PCs and monitors represent low hanging fruit, which provide a relatively quick and easy way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from ICT and overall nationally and globally,” the report says.
It finds the major impediment to achieving energy savings with ICT is not the technology, but the behaviour of the people working in the ICT industry, selecting and operating the computer equipment. Measures to address this can include:
- Plugging skills gaps and inadequate skill levels; delivering training materials, training courses and systems of accreditation; improving skill levels across the industry, raising the profile of and value attributed to highly skilled industry participants;
- Identifying market failures in terms of both energy and economic efficiency and supporting the creation of policies, programs and incentives that work to counter market failures;
- Performance indicators for the industry on energy consumption of PCs;
- Case studies and industry briefings via existing industry and professional associations.
- Education programs for consumers and industry customers;
- International involvement in energy saving initiatives by government and industry.
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