Black is the new green

This week saw the launch of a new website that turns Google’s white screen black in a bid to save energy.

Inspired by a blog posting earlier this year, the website ( could, claim its developers, save 750 megawatt hours a year if it were embraced by Google’s worldwide army of users.

Although some have disputed the claim that monitors need more power to display a white screen, the story chimes neatly with the findings of ‘The Ampere Strikes Back’, a new Energy Saving Trust report arguing that our love-affair with gadgets could cancel out efforts to reduce energy consumption in other areas.

According to the report, the consumer electronics (CE) sector will, by the end of the decade, overtake cold appliances and lighting to become the biggest single user of domestic electricity. Furthermore, by 2020, it predicts that our insatiable appetite for televisions, computers, and set-top boxes, will mean that CE and ICT products account for 44.5 per cent of the electricity used in the home, soaking up the equivalent output of 14 average sized power stations.

Beyond the obvious growth in the market, the report singles out many reasons for home electronics becoming such a drain on resources. For instance, in contrast to the trend towards greater efficiency that characterises other domestic appliances such as freezers, new versions of electronic gadgets tend to consume more electricity. Another reason suggested by the energy saving trust is that products are used in unexpected ways. One example is the popular use of digital TV to listen to radio – turning what used to be a low -energy experience into an incredibly wasteful one. And, of course, no report on energy profligacy in the home would be complete without a mention of that old chestnut of vanishing off-buttons and perpetually-lit standby LEDs.

As ever, much of the power to change this situation lies with consumers who through a few simple behavioural changes – from making use of power management facilities on computers, to switching off devices when they’re not in use – could make a significant dent in the report’s direst predictions.

But, from creating more energy efficient products, to reversing the trend for the disappearing off-button, there is also plenty that manufacturers can do. One specific call made by the report is for manufacturers of all TV sets to introduce a “screen-blanking” feature that would reduce the energy demands of TV-based digital radio. It also singles out mobile-phone chargers as an area ripe for improvement. Current chargers still use energy when they are plugged in but not charging, and the report calls for the development of universal external power supply (EPS) chargers that consume almost no energy at all in ‘no load’ mode.

Whatever the solution, with computers the single biggest source of growth of domestic electricity use in the UK and consumption expected to increase by a further 30 per cent between by 2020 maybe black Google isn’t such a crazy idea after all.

Jon Excell, Features Editor