Vampire power and the need to save energy little and often

March 27, 2015 //By Jim Bird
Vampire power and the need to save energy little and often
Jim Bird of Texas Instruments points out that "standby" may be a convenience in home electronics but it is also an energy drain. More needs to be done in saving energy on a global basis but small but ubiquitous changes can have a great impact.

Much time is spent discussing the need for more efficient use of limited energy resources, and with good reason. Energy demand continues to grow and the number of loads is predicted to climb exponentially as Internet of Things (IoT) deployment becomes real. In 2014, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published an enlightening (and somewhat sobering) document titled More Data, Less Power.

It’s a 170-page fact-laden discussion of global IT energy usage with recommendations for managing the predicted growth of worldwide power consumption over the next few decades. The list of contributors is impressive, including the U.S. Department of Energy, tier-one telecom manufacturers, big data, big network and everyone in-between.

Before reading the report I was not aware of the IEA, how it came to be or its evolving mission. The IEA was originally created in 1974 after the Arab oil embargo, when 24 oil-importing countries joined together in order to create and maintain reliable energy (oil) supplies. Their focus today is to promote efficient energy use and control demand growth.

Among the key messages in the report is the need to look for and exploit opportunities to improve efficiency in existing and yet-to-be-deployed systems. These include the myriad devices surrounding us that are always powered, yet spend much of their time in standby. One device that consumes “vampire” power is a set-top box. The report states that these devices are idle 80 to 90 percent of the time and use only 20 percent of consumed energy to perform their primary functions, with the majority of the energy used to maintain network connectivity.

Another device with similar characteristics and broad deployment is a gaming console. In 2010, gaming consoles in the US used 16 TWh of electricity – about 1 percent of all residential demand. Global gaming-console usage energy consumption is expected to reach greater than 70 TWh by 2020.

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