Ministers meet to cut consumption

Major UK electronic retailers are today meeting with ministers to address how to deliver more energy efficient products to consumers in light of a huge projected increase in domestic electricity consumption.

Environment Minister Ian Pearson and Financial Secretary to the Treasury John Healey are holding the summit with representatives from companies including Argos Retail Group, Amazon, Asda, Comet, Dixons Group, John Lewis, Kingfisher (B&Q), Morrisons, Morphy Richards, Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

The initiative, announced in this year’s Budget, will look to set up a voluntary partnership for retailers to commit, from next year, to sell energy efficient consumer electronic products, with the aim of significantly reducing carbon emissions from these products by 2010.

Last year, consumer electronics used around 18 terawatt hours (TWh), equivalent to the annual output from 5 standard power stations, amounting to 30 per cent of UK’s total domestic electricity consumption. Statistics from Defra‘s Market Transformation Programme show that this could rise to 31TWh by 2010. This is mainly due to the rise in the number of televisions in people’s homes, demand for larger screens and for digital set-top boxes.

Projections show that over 50 million digital set-top boxes will be in UK homes by 2012. These will need an additional 3.5TWh to power them.

The Summit is looking for major electronics retailers and supermarkets to commit to supply energy efficient products that could reduce the energy consumption of the products they sell, cutting their customers’ electricity bills and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Retailers will be asked to work with Defra officials to develop detailed proposals following the meeting.

Speaking at the Defra-sponsored international Energy Efficiency in Lighting and Domestic Appliances conference in London, Pearson said that while the challenge ahead was considerable, there was scope to improve efficiencies, adding that some companies were already leading the way in procuring energy efficient products.

“This is a truly international agenda. We have similar products and we share the same problem; how to deal with the demand for more and better goods and services while at the same time ensuring that we minimise the effect on the environment,” said Pearson.

“Take set top boxes. Some, like those supplied by companies like BSkyB who have signed up to the European Code of Conduct, now provide consumers with boxes that consume around half the energy they did five years ago.

“But there are simple digital adaptors you can buy off the shelf in the high street actually use on average around five times as much energy in stand-by mode (6W) compared to the most efficient box that was available four years ago (around 1W) . I would like to see retailers stop selling inefficient digital set-top boxes altogether.

“The Government is deeply serious about reducing energy demand, and we have to now tackle these risks and challenges. This is why I and my Treasury colleagues will be meeting with the major retailers to invite them to commit to set ambitious energy efficiency standards for the consumer electronic products that they sell.”

Healey said, “Climate change is the greatest environmental challenge we face. Just leaving devices such as TVs and DVD players on standby at home puts up to one million tonnes of carbon a year into the atmosphere and costs households around £25 a year. By working in partnership with retailers, this initiative will not only help tackle climate change, it will help cut customers’ electricity bills.”