Overview of Key Issues relating to Standby Power

Standby Power is the term commonly used to describe the low power mode(s) which many electrical and electronic products use when not performing their 'usual' operation, but when still connected to a power supply. Standby power has become ubiquitous in appliances and equipment as electronic controls become standard and, in most countries, there is evidence that energy consumption by products in standby mode is increasing rapidly.


Since the 'standby problem' became apparent more then a decade ago, the area has attracted significant attention. However, the lack of information on, and undertstanding of, the impact standby power has on individual products and overall energy consumption remains generally poor and this is hampering effective policy development. This lack of information and understanding can be attributed to two primary causes:


  • Challenges of data collection: The growing number of products which have low power modes, changes in the types of functions in equipment and the growing number of low-power modes in many electronic products present many challenges for data collection.
  • Poor data sharing: Even when such data is successfully collected, it is not necessarily shared between stakeholders or presented in a manner which is most effective in informing the policy debate. This lack of effective data exchange is partly through ineffective communications between stakeholders, but also due to incompatibility of the data that has been collected.


Nevertheless, a number of governments have understood that low power mode energy consumption will result in significant wastage of energy into the future and that there is a need for policy development to encourage improvements in standby energy design (including power management) in new products. As a result, policies have been developed in a number of markets to tackle excessive standby. These policies, which include a range of mandatory and voluntary measures, have been targeted at a relatively small number of the individual products which contribute to standby consumption and usually only the lowest standby power modes.


While it is belived that these policies have contributed to a reduction in the growth of standby power (at least in the products targeted), a number of problems still remain, including:


  • Difficulty in defining policy targets: While individual policy approaches vary, they are usually defined in terms of individual products which, given the rapid change in functionality of products, together with the speed of development an penetration of new products, have to be continually updated or soon become redundant.
  • Increase in low power modes: As devices have become more complex in terms of functionality there has been a growth in the number of potential low power modes. The act of maintaining connection to a digital network is one example of a mode which is becoming more common in electronic equipment. Therefore, while products may be using less energy in the lowest standby mode, the overall policy effectiveness in often difficult to assess and impacts are hard to quantify.
  • Inability to evaluate policy: Because of the rapid market evolution, the shortage of ongoing market tracking data, and lack of common data collection and reporting methodologies, overall policy effectiveness is often difficult o assess and impacts are hard to quantify.
  • Limited coordination of policy action: Many of the products incorporating standby are globally traded, yet policies for standby management are normally developed on a national basis which can result in competing policy pressures on individual products.


In the last couple of years,and as part of an ongoing process setting mandatory minimum performance standards for energy-using products, countries such as Korea and Member States of the European Union have addressed the issue of passive/low standby with regulations being introduced to target a large number of product types.


However, despite these commendable efforts, there are some limitations in the current policy approaches in terms of ensuring that excessive standby power is adequately tackled into the future for all future product types and their associated functions.


In various countries, studies are underway to examine networked products and other specific aspects of standby. Using this work as a foundation, the Annex will further develop understanding of the technical and policy issues in this area.


The Standby Annex seeks to assist policy makers in development, implementation and measurement of policy action for standby power through:


  • Enhancing market knowledge: The Annex will enhance the ability of individual countries to gather, analyse, and share market data on standby power, thus, improving the overall knowledge base for decision making and enabling valid international comparisons so the rate of imporvement or deterioration in standby power use can be qualified within and between countries against the backdrop of the policies employed.


  • Enabling improved policy application: The Annex will assist in the development of tools for the application of horizontal approaches to standby which offer the most robust policy approach to tackling low power energy use across a wide range of products - enabling ongoing policy implementation without rapid redunancy and the possibility of coordination of policy approaches between countries.


  • Integration and coordination: Building and developing the work undertaken by groups like the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP) and the European EcoDesign Directive.

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