SAN FRANCISCO (June 19, 2013) – The modems, routers, and other household small network equipment used by America’s 88 million high-speed Internet subscribers consume about $1 billion worth of electricity annually but more efficient models could cut consumer bills by at least $330 million, according to a groundbreaking analysis released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“These small, innocuous black boxes that never sleep consume enough electricity each year to power all 1.2 million homes in the Silicon Valley area, the hi-tech capital of the world,” said NRDC senior scientist Noah Horowitz. “Small network devices suck roughly the same amount of energy around the clock, whether or not you are sending or receiving any data. But there are steps that manufacturers can – and should – take to make sure these devices are no longer energy vampires.”
The report, Cutting Energy and Costs to Connect to the Internet: Improving the Efficiency of Home Network Equipment, is the first detailed look at small network energy use in U.S. households. It found that modems used to access the Internet and Wi-Fi routers that move digital content around the home to computers, printers, game consoles, and other electronics annually consume as much electricity as a new 32-inch flat screen television. That’s more than twice as much as an efficient 14-inch laptop computer, and 30 times as much as a cell phone charger.
With 145 million small network devices nationwide, all that energy adds up to 8.3 billion kilowatt hours of electricity consumed annually, which is equal to the output of three large, coal-burning power plants (500 MW). The result is an estimated 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, equivalent to the pollution spewing from the tailpipes of 1.1 million vehicles.
However, replacing today’s inefficient devices with equipment that is just 25 percent more energy efficient could save 2.8 billion kilowatt hours of electricity—or about $330 million worth of customer energy bills—annually.
Unfortunately, few manufacturers currently make energy efficient models and even then, it is difficult for consumers to determine which ones use less energy, regardless of whether they are purchased from store shelves or leased as part of an Internet service package.
The government’s ENERGY STAR® program is expected to soon issue a specification that will result in a label to help customers buy efficient models and choose Internet providers offering energy-saving network equipment in their subscription packages. However, qualifying models will not be required to meet the industry’s advanced benchmarks to scale power down when data is not being transmitted. In addition, the state of California is considering setting minimum energy efficiency standards to make sure every model sold there is an efficient one.
“We’ve improved the efficiency of all sorts of electronics – from TVs to video game consoles,” said Horowitz. “It’s just as possible to increase the energy savings from our modems and routers. The manufacturers know how to build the better mousetrap, and it’s time for that innovation to be a standard feature in the new modems and routers we buy at the store or receive from our Internet providers.”
For more information, see Noah Horowitz’s blog: http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/nhorowitz/ and our issue paper at http://www.nrdc.org/energy/energy-saving-residential-network.asp.