Brussels, 20 October 2006
On 19 October, The European Commission launched its ambitious action plan to cut Europe's energy consumption by 20% over the next 14 years. Turning your television off standby every night could save you up to €84 a year, according to new research from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC), while further energy savings could be made through low energy light bulbs.
Stand-by buttons are found all around the modern house, on televisions, computer monitors, video and DVD recorders and scanners, to name a few appliances. What consumers perhaps do not realise is that these small buttons are creating huge holes, not only in consumers' pockets, but also in their respective country's energy budget.
The JRC estimates that these types of equipment account for as much as 20% of household electricity consumption. About half of this figure is due to stand-by losses, which overall represents up to 100 W per 100 million household units in Europe, or 100 billion kWh per year. It would require 10 large power stations of one GW each to deliver this electricity, and as it is, European citizens are paying €15 billion yearly for this consumption.
However, technology now exists to avoid or reduce standby power consumption to near zero. Televisions recently introduced onto the market now use just one-third of the electricity in standby compared to older TV sets.
Another means to save energy in households is Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs), otherwise known as low-energy consumption light bulbs. Research estimates that they represent a savings potential of at least 11.5 billion kWh per year in the EU-25. But European citizens appear to be unaware of their benefits - fewer than three out of ten bulbs in European households are CFLs.
Retail price is still the most important barrier to changing consumer behaviour, even the cost of CFLs has fallen - as well as their short pay back periods. At present, cheap and high quality CFLs are only available in selected stores. In addition, many consumers who have tried earlier generations of CFLs were dissatisfied with discrepancies between claimed and actual life time, as well as their shape, size and colour temperature.
Many of these barriers were created by older and bulkier CFLs which produced a very cold light and had a long light output stabilisation time. Nowadays, CFLs come in different light temperatures, in much smaller size and reach full output very quickly. Nonetheless, the customer perception created by previous generations of CFLs is difficult to overcome.
On 19 October, the European Commission presented an action plan which will, among other things, tackle consumers' energy habits and seek to introduce new energy performance standards for a wide range of appliances and equipment (from household goods such as fridges and air conditioners to industrial pumps and fans).
The main aim of the action plan is to reduce Europe's energy consumption by 20% in the next 14 years. If successful, the EU could save more than €100 billion per year. The plan would also help to cut the EU's CO2 emissions and therefore contribute to reaching the Kyoto targets.