State should set efficiency standards for computers, monitors: Guest commentary
This week, the California Energy Commission will make an important decision impacting households, schools and businesses across the Inland Empire: passing America’s first-ever energy efficiency standards for computers and monitors. The standards will reduce the unseen flow of wasted energy from electronic devices, reducing utility bills in our state by $370 million each year while cutting back on air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. At the Community Home Energy Retrofit Project (CHERP), we think this is a great idea whose time has come.
California, and the Inland Empire, are going all in on energy efficiency, and for good reason. Buildings are the largest producers of greenhouse gases on the planet. At CHERP, we work with families, community groups, businesses and cities to help people build and retrofit buildings and homes so that they waste less energy and emit fewer harmful emissions. I see every day how hard people work to save energy, but working on homes, commercial and industrial structures isn’t enough. You have to address what’s going on inside those buildings, as well.
Behavior matters, and sensible efficiency standards for the things people use every day lock in automatic energy savings while saving money. Rather than putting the onus on busy families and employees to save energy, standards such as this bake the savings right into the product to protect the planet, and pocketbook.
The CEC’s proposed energy efficiency standards for computers and monitors offer a way to reach into every home, business, school and institution across the state and decrease a huge and invisible energy drain.
The University of California Plug Load Research Center estimates that office desktop computers are switched on 77 percent of the time, but sit idle for 61 percent of those minutes, unnecessarily drawing power from the grid. Add in all the other always-on electronics in homes and businesses across the country — televisions, modems, routers and more — and they waste about $19 billion worth of energy each year. We should expect more from the innovative manufacturers of digital devices. Making these vampire devices more efficient is a common-sense way to save a lot of energy, cut back on pollution and protect the climate.
Here in the Inland Empire, we are all too familiar with the effects of air pollution. And if the climate continues to change as it has been, according to scientists, by 2050 we will experience four times the number of 95-plus-degree days that we do now. So we have a vested interest in curbing the use of energy generated from fossil fuels.
In addition, our region is home to a lot of lower-income communities, which studies show are more heavily impacted by pollution. Families in these neighborhoods spend a disproportionate part of their paychecks on energy costs. Standards, like those proposed for computers, help them cut their utility bills and allow them to use the savings for other household expenses.
The state’s computer efficiency rules will balance the public good and the interests of our advanced technology sector. They will spark innovation and save families, schools and businesses money, while cleaning the air and protecting the planet. We commend the CEC on this pioneering move, and look forward to a new era of energy efficiency devices that lock in savings for the Inland Empire and the rest of the state.
Devon Hartman is founder and executive director of CHERP Inc. (the Community Home Energy Retrofit Project), a nonprofit that works with counties, cities, community organizations and contractors to promote energy efficiency and other sustainable building practices. He was a co-founder and has retired as CEO of HartmanBaldwin Design/Build in Claremont.
Proposed energy efficiency standards for computers and monitors offer a way to reach into every home, business, school and institution across the state and decrease a huge and invisible energy drain.