Smart energy

Cool Appliances: Policy Strategies for Energy-Efficient Homes
OECD Observer

Did you think twice before you switched on the air conditioning this summer? For many living in hot, humid cities and regions, air conditioning is seen as the greatest invention of all time. But being slightly cooler has a high price as far as energy consumption is concerned.

Cool Appliances advocates the adoption of technologies designed to improve energy efficiency of residential appliances by more than one-third in the space of 10 years. Modern society’s dependence on residential appliances shows no sign of abating; 30% of all electricity generated in OECD countries is used by private residences, which in turn are responsible for 12% of all carbon dioxide emissions. As developing countries enter the next phase of economic and social progress, alongside the already high demands of their developed counterparts, the global demand for energy is slated to increase even further.

Cool Appliances analyses the potential energy savings and carbon reductions possible via technological improvements to common appliances. Society’s increasing use of computer and network technology is a good target for possible energy savings. Most computers continue to consume power even when in standby mode. Using energy-efficient appliances in the home could slash 642 terrawatt hours (TWh) of electricity and 322 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions by 2010. This single measure would have the equivalent effect of taking 100 million cars off the roads in OECD countries. And it would also achieve up to 30% of the energy savings set out by the Kyoto protocol.

Though Cool Appliances concedes that such savings would be achieved at a cost to society, the extra spending on improving energy efficiency would be more than offset by savings in running costs over an appliance’s life. Policies like this have already proved effective – in IEA countries they reduced the need for 25 gas-fired power stations in 2000, for instance.

©OECD Observer No 237, May 2003

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