Green laws will tackle standby appliances

The UK government is backing a European directive that will force technology manufacturers to build more energy-efficient products

The UK government has welcomed EU legislation designed to clamp down on inefficient technology such as computers and household appliances that waste huge amounts of power when in standby mode.

The Eco-design for Energy Using Products Framework Directive, due to be signed this week, is designed to create efficiency standards for electrical equipment in an effort to drive down carbon emissions by encouraging better product design.

"Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide are needlessly produced every year by computers, digital set top boxes, chargers and many other products left on standby mode," said Environment Minister Elliot Morley. "We know that products can be designed to be much more efficient and do less harm to the environment. Wasted energy is a hidden cost for consumers and in this day and age that is unacceptable."

The government has estimated that one million tonnes of greenhouse gases are created every year by devices left on standby.

Zoe McMahon, HP environmental strategies and sustainability manager, said her company supports the Eco-Design of Energy Using Products (EUP) Directive and has been actively involved in its development through the European industry association, EICTA.

"An important first step is for the industry to agree a common definition of 'standby'; HP is involved, through EICTA, in proposing a common definition which will ensure that appropriate measures can be developed in a way that offers the greatest efficiency improvements," McMahon said.

McHahon claimed that HP has already made progress in improving the standby energy efficiency of its products. "When in low power mode, HP laptops use less than 1W of power, well below the 15W required by the international ENERGY STAR programme. Qualifying notebook PC external power supplies are compliant with the EU Code of Conduct for energy efficiency, using less than 0.75W when in no-load power state," she said.

A spokesperson for Dell said: "Dell supports the European Commission's basic objective with the EUP Directive including the aim to encourage improvement of the overall environmental impact of products, notably by identifying the major sources of negative environmental impacts and avoiding transfer of pollution."

Environmental group Friends of the Earth (FOE) have been calling on the government to tackle the issue of inefficient appliances with tough legislation. A spokesman for the organisation welcomed the new legislation but said the group would continue to campaign to reduce the carbon emissions from inefficient technology.

In a statement issued earlier this month, FOE campaigner Martyn Williams said that it was ludicrous that so much energy is being wasted by appliances left on standby.

"Tough new rules are urgently needed to stop this waste of energy. If we can agree rules to make toys safe to stop our children injuring themselves, why can't we have rules to stop TVs harming our climate," said Williams.

The EU directive also aims to encourage manufacturers to produce products which are designed to minimise their overall environmental impact, including the resources consumed in their production and disposal.