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Big Energy Savings from Battery-Powered Products, while Recharging Consumers Wallets

Pierre Delforge

Posted January 12, 2012 in Curbing Pollution, Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming

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By a 3-0 vote today, the California Energy Commission adopted a minimum energy efficiency standard for battery chargers, making California the first state in the nation to do so.

If you’re wondering why – here’s the reason…The products and gadgets that make our lives productive and fun are increasingly using rechargeable batteries and associated charging systems to support user mobility and convenience. Unfortunately many of the battery-powered devices on the market today still use inefficient and outdated charging systems, wasting most of the energy consumed as heat. On average, two thirds of the charge energy is wasted as heat. In the worst cases less than 3 percent of the charge energy reaches the product!  The standard will help ensure that the charging systems used in new products sold in California charge efficiently and stop charging once the batteries are full.

The standard will cover small and large consumer and non-consumer products that charge and are powered by a rechargeable battery. This includes mobile and cordless phones, consumer electronic products such as notebook computers and MP3 players, personal care products, power tools, auto/marine/RV chargers, off-road vehicles such as golf cars, forklifts and others.

Here’s the best part – the standard will result in lower operating costs for consumers.  For every cent of incremental cost to make the product more efficient, consumers will save 7 cents in reduced electricity costs over the lifetime of the product.  And since the industry can create better products using inexpensive off-the-shelf components such as more efficient power supplies and smart (integrated circuit-based) charge control systems, there will be no hidden costs to bear.

The standard will also save the equivalent annual electricity use of all the households in a city the size of San Jose, California (or one 250 MW power plant). And it will reduce California’s CO2 emissions by 1.8 million tons annually, the equivalent of removing 138,000 cars from the road annually.

From an economic perspective, each year of sales of products meeting the standard will save Californians $300 million in reduced electricity costs over the lifetime of the products. The reinvestment of these savings will stimulate the California economy, creating local jobs.

At the federal level, we expect that the California standard will help DOE set a similar standard at national level, bringing the same benefits to all Americans.

By every measure, the California battery charger efficiency standard will have major environmental and economic benefits in California and beyond. It is a great example of a win-win solution that benefits the environment while recharging consumers’ wallets!

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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