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EC Clamps Down On Power Supplies

Mobile devices might be more efficient but “power bricks” must do better says the EC

Tech companies may be proud of energy efficient chips and hardware but the European Commission (EC) has told them to improve the performance of external power supplies.

The EC has adopted a new regulation that aims to improve the efficiency of the devices by nearly a third by 2020, according to a statement this week.

Improving the efficiency of power supplies could result in savings of up to 9 TWh, says the EC, pointing out rather abstractly that this could power Lithuania for a year. In addition improving the perfomance of power packs could help cut annual C02 emissions by three million tonnes.

“This ecodesign measure will drastically improve the energy performance of external power supplies, which everybody uses together with many household and office products. Setting ambitious energy performance requirements for products is an important contribution to improving Europe’s energy efficiency,” said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

The EC claims the new requirements address both the “active” efficiency of power supplies when devices such as laptops are being used, and the “no-load” state which is the power consumed by the power pack when there is no device attached to it.

The new requirements will come into force in two steps over the next two years and will “correspond to internationally recognised efficiency criteria” such as the US Energy Star rating system.

The rise of the netbook has led to a corresponding scale-down in the size of the power supplies needed to charge the mini-laptops. Indeed, one of the key advantages of the netbook is that mobile workers no longer have to carry around the large “power bricks” demanded by large laptops.

The mobile industry has also made moves to improve the compatibility of the myriad chargers required for handsets. Moves towards standardising on Micro-USB charges have been voiced, while the popular Apple iPhone uses a very similar USB connector as its iPod bretheren.

On February 17 mobile operators, led by the GSM Association, and manufacturers announced that by 2012 they would use Micro-USB as the “common universal charging interface” which the companies claim could eliminate up to 51,000 tonnes of duplicate chargers.

“The mobile industry has a pivotal role to play in tackling environmental issues and this programme is an important step that could lead to huge savings in resources, not to mention convenience for consumers,” said GSMA chief executive Rob Conway at the time.