What’s the cost of standby?

What does it cost to have the world’s 14 billion online electronic devices – set-top boxes, modems, printers, game consoles, etc – on standby? Well, inefficient technology could be wasting as much as US$80bn (£48bn) a year. In 2013, the world’s networked devices consumed around 616 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity, the majority of which was used in standby mode. Of that total, around 400TWh – equivalent to the electricity consumed annually by the UK and Norway combined – was wasted because of inefficient technology.

A report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) explains that much of the problem boils down to inefficient “network standby” – that is, the maintaining of a network connection while in standby. In many devices, standby is a misnomer: it suggests the device has gone to sleep and is almost off. In reality, most network-enabled devices draw as much power in this mode as when activated to perform their main tasks.

IEA executive director Maria Van der Hoeven says: “Just by using today’s best available technology, such devices could perform exactly the same tasks in standby while consuming around 65% less power.”

The need for action is made clear: projections indicate there will be 50 billion network-enabled devices deployed globally by 2020 and 100 billion by 2030. The report says policy measures to tackle the challenge could include minimum energy performance requirements, labeling schemes, labeling schemes, voluntary agreements, incentives and awards.

The report, More data, less energy: Making network standby more efficient in billions of connected devices, is available from IEA.

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