Bush to agencies: Kill off federal 'energy vampires'

Bush to agencies: Kill off federal 'energy vampires'

BY PATRICIA DAUKANTAS | GCN STAFF

By 2003, President Bush wants the government to buy certain types of electrical equipment'including information technology'that meet a new standard for lower power consumption when idle.


The president called such products 'vampire devices.' His speech should be a wake-up call for government buyers, Meier said.
So, agencies soon will find themselves slaying what Bush refers to as vampires, not with wooden stakes and silver bullets but with more energy-efficient equipment.

Speaking to Energy Department employees late last month, Bush said he will sign an executive order directing agencies to buy devices that consume no more than 1 watt of standby power whenever it's cost-effective to do so.

The president had not signed the order by late last week, 'so we don't know yet what he's going to cover,' said Alan K. Meier, an energy analyst at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. Although there are various definitions for standby power, Meier said he considers it the lowest power level while a device is plugged in.

Many appliances, such as instant-on television sets, now draw an average of 4 watts to 7 watts when powered off. Bush called such products 'vampire devices' and dubbed Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham the 'vampire slayer.'

Although Bush touched on several types of energy consumption, Meier said he believes the president was referring mainly to power supplies that convert alternating current to direct current.

The most voracious consumers of standby power, Meier said, are devices with external power supplies, remote controls and clock displays.

He said such electricity leeches show up in surprising numbers within an office: cellular-phone chargers, printers and fax machines, microwave oven touch pads and restroom water heaters.

Even when not in use, external power supplies draw power as long as they are plugged into a live outlet, Meier said.

By some estimates, U.S. homes and offices contain 500 million to 1 billion energy vampires, Meier said. The devices account for about 5 percent of residential electric bills, but their fraction of office power cost is harder to determine because of variances in equipment.

Internal computer power supplies use standby electricity, and so do monitors in sleep mode.
'The speech should be a call to attention by government purchasers,' Meier said.

In his remarks, Bush voiced support for the Energy Star program, through which Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency have promoted development of power-efficient products.

The Energy Star Web site, at www.energystar.gov, notes that a 1-watt standby standard will be phased in over time to reduce economic and technical burdens on manufacturers and consumers.

Energy Star officials are reviewing the program's specification for computer monitors, according to the Web site. To earn the Energy Star label, a monitor currently must draw no more than 15 watts in first low-power mode and no more than 8 watts in second low-power or deep-sleep mode.

'The moment you go to a flat-screen monitor, it's quite easy to achieve 1 watt on standby,' Meier said.

The Energy Star program has proposed a standard of 0.5 watt of standby power for cordless telephones and answering machines.

More information about Energy Star's work with government agencies appears on the Web at yosemite1.epa.gov/estar/business.nsf/webmenus/FederalAgencies.

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