Gadgets gobbling up more and more power

All those cell phones, Kindles, PCs, laptops, televisions, iPods and everything else that needs to plugged in, charged up and otherwise re-energized are gobbling up 15 percent of household power. In another 20 years, that figure is expected to triple, necessitating a lot more generating capacity.

A study by the International Energy Agency reported those results.

All hope was not lost, however - the data was based on current energy needs of all the gadgets. If newer generations continue to be refined and made more energy-efficient, that figure could decline. But gadget statistics were nothing short of eye-popping:

By 2010 there will be over 3.5 billion mobile phones subscribers, 2 billion TVs in use around the world and 1 billion personal computers. Electronic devices are a growing part of our lives and many of us can count between 20 and 30 separate items in our homes, from major items like televisions to a host of small gadgets. The communication and entertainment benefits these bring are not only going to people in wealthier nations - in Africa, for example, one in nine people now has a mobile phone.

One suggestion of the study is to limit standby power - i.e. when the gadget is turned off - to 1 watt; the IEA in 2007 reported that 20 percent of televisions in the U.S. used more than 2 watts.

The good news is that the electronics industry is well aware of the so-called energy vampires - devices that suck up energy while not in use. For example, a group of cellphone makers - LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung Electronics and Sony Ericsson - have banded together to offer a star-rated system to rank the energy use of cellphone chargers so that consumers can make informed decisions. Google prides itself on having a very low per-search carbon footprint and says it's continually working to decrease that and to help users lower their energy consumption.

The main barrier to making devices more energy efficient is that it may cost more to make them that way, according to New Scientist magazine. The IEA says governments may need to get involved to get such units on the market.
Tags:  Gadgets, Energy, Power