EPA, Computer Manufacturers Launch Program to Introduce Energy-Efficient Personal Computers

[EPA press release - June 17, 1992]

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today signed partnership agreements with eight leading computer manufacturers to promote energy-efficient personal computers and prevent air pollution associated with power generation. These new personal computers could save enough electricity to power Vermont and New Hampshire each year and save ratepayers up to $1 billion in annual electricity bills. The agreements are the first to be signed under the Energy Star Computers Program.

The voluntary partnerships were announced at a joint news conference held in San Jose, California, by EPA and Apple Computer Inc., Compaq Computer Corp., Digital Equipment Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corp., NCR Corp., Smith Corona Corp. and Zenith Data Systems. The charter partners in the EPA Energy Star Computers Program account for 35 percent of U.S. personal computer and work station sales.

EPA Administrator William K. Reilly said, "The Energy Star Computers Program makes environmental sense. It makes business sense and it makes sense for consumers. We estimate that by the year 2000, Energy Star Computers and other campaigns to promote energy efficient computer equipment will lead to savings of 25 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually."

These savings will prevent carbon dioxide emissions of 20 million tons--the equivalent of five million automobiles. Reduced too will be emissions of 140,000 tons of sulfur dioxide and 75,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, the two pollutants most responsible for acid rain.

Under the agreement outlined today, EPA Energy Star Computers Partners will introduce personal computers that can "power down" when they are not being used. This feature could save over 50 percent in energy use for each computer. Computers that meet the terms of the agreement will be identified for consumers through the EPA ENERGY STAR logo.

Research shows that the vast majority of time a computer is turned on, it is not actively in use--and 30-40 percent of the nation's 30-35 million personal computers are left running at night and on weekends. Furthermore, office equipment is the fastest growing electricity load in the commercial sector. Computer systems alone are believed to account for five percent of commercial electricity consumption and potentially up to 10 percent by the year 2000.

Studies indicate that savings of 70-90 percent are technically achievable for many personal computer applications. EPA's new program provides an incentive for manufacturers to pursue these efficiency opportunities. The EPA ENERGY STAR logo is a mechanism to help consumers identify the new, high energy-efficient computers.

The EPA ENERGY STAR logo will make its debut on products and in advertisements in one year, at which time EPA hopes to have the entire industry signed on to the program. Reilly said, "Our Partners in the computer world see energy efficiency as an opportunity to serve their customers, as well as the environment. Once again, they're on the cutting edge of a national trend."

The computer bearing the EPA ENERGY STAR logo will be capable of entering a low-power state to reduce significantly the energy it uses. By the terms of the agreement, manufacturers will be able to qualify computers or monitors with a consumption of 30 watts or less in their low-power state.

William G. Rosenberg, EPA Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, said, The computer industry is renowned for its technological ingenuity, and I'm especially pleased that this ingenuity is being applied to benefit the environment."

In addition to personal computers, EPA is considering the expansion of the EPA Energy Star Computers Program to include printers. Eventually, EPA will develop with manufacturers similar programs for other consumer appliances where cost-effective energy efficiency improvements can be made.

Through corporate purchasing efforts modeled after EPA's Green Lights program, EPA will encourage consumers to buy computers bearing the EPA ENERGY STAR logo wherever they are cost-effective. Under agreements signed with EPA through Green Lights, over 550 corporations and governments have committed to energy-efficient lighting upgrades. In addition, EPA is working with the Department of Energy and others within the federal government to assist agencies in purchasing efficient office equipment. The federal government is the largest purchaser of office equipment in the world, and spent over $4.1 billion on computer hardware and software during the last year alone.

EPA Energy Star Computers is one of several market-based EPA initiatives included in the U.S. strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Other EPA programs target refrigerators and commercial building technologies.