A Trickle Turns into a Flood: Standby Power Loss in China

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Standby power use typically describes the power consumption of appliances when theyare switched off or not providing their primary services but connected to the electricmain. It has also acquired many colorful names such as leaking electricity and vampirepower. The most common appliances with standby power use are televisions, VCRs,microwave ovens, and all devices with external power supplies (such as chargers formobile telephones). Any appliance with a remote control, such as room air conditionerand many audio products, will also consume standby power. Standby power use is smallfor each appliance; however, when aggregated, it represents a significant portion ofhousehold energy consumption. Several studies (Rainer, Meier and Greenberg 1996; Nakagami et al. 1997; Sidler 2000; Harrington and Kleverlaan 2001; International EnergyAgency 2001; Ross and Meier 2001; Vowles, Boardman and Lane 2001) havedocumented that standby power is about 20-60 W per home in developed nations, rangingfrom 4 – 10% of total residential electricity use.

Such electricity consumption also translates into a significant amount of global carbonemissions. It is estimated that standby power use of appliances is responsible for about1% of total carbon emissions in OECD countries (Lebot, Meier and Anglade 2000;International Energy Agency 2001). Reducing standby power use has been recognizedby a growing community of researchers and international agencies as one of bestgreenhouse gas mitigation strategies because standby power use can be substantiallyreduced at relatively low costs.

There is almost no information about standby power use in developing countries. Even ifthe levels of standby power draw for a particular appliance are similar to those found indeveloped countries, the ownership and usage patterns of those appliances will bedifferent. This paper summarizes the findings from the first survey on standby power usein China.

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