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Dr Brenda Boardman
"Every time we switch on an appliance we are releasing carbon dioxide emissions"
 real 28k

The BBC's Roger Harrabin
"Owners can push the off button, but some appliances continue to surreptitiously sip electricity"
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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 14:52 GMT 15:52 UK
Climate change risk from TV
digital tv satellite dish and decoder
Digital TVs could be much more energy-efficient than they are
By environment correspondent Alex Kirby

Much of the electricity used in the UK's homes is needlessly wasted and the resultant carbon dioxide released could speed climate change, according to an Oxford University study.

With almost a quarter of the country's electricity used domestically, the researchers say this area offers scope for big savings.

They say digital TV sets alone are expected to increase consumer electronics' power consumption by 7% by 2010.

And they expect the electricity used in consumer electronics almost to double between 1998 and 2020.

They call for the European Union to adopt a directive setting tougher standards for the efficiency of electrical goods.

"Major savings"

The researchers, from the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, were led by Dr Brenda Boardman.

In a report, Lower Carbon Futures, they explore the potential for consumers to reduce their emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main gas blamed for global warming.

Dr Boardman said: "There are major savings to be made through more efficient appliances and from fuel switching.

Incentive

"But consumers need to link energy use with carbon emissions for policies to be successful.

"Seeing on your fuel bill that your family has produced two tonnes of CO2 demonstrates clearly the link between energy use and carbon emissions.

"When you also learn that it could be reduced to half through more efficient appliances and the purchase of green electricity, there is both a powerful incentive to help the environment and the opportunity."

Domestic appliances - including cookers, fridges, freezers, lighting, TVs and computers - account for 24% of the UK's total electricity consumption.


open fridge door with contents
Fridges and freezers are power-hungry
That proportion is almost twice as high as in 1970, and is still rising.

Overall domestic electricity consumption in Europe is growing at 0.8-1.0% annually, while gas use is almost stable.

In the UK, digital TV sets alone are expected to increase electricity consumption in the domestic lights and appliances category by 7% by 2010.

Dr Boardman told BBC News Online: "Most policymakers don't realise that virtually a quarter of all our electricity is consumed in our homes.

"Nor do most householders. But they can now see what a contribution they can make to reducing CO2 emissions.

"Digital TV is a problem because the decoder, which is switched on all the time, uses 25 watts.

Uninterested

"But you could quite easily get that down to just one watt while the decoder is inactive.

"The problem is that the decoder manufacturers want to make them as cheaply as possible and are not interested in efficiency.

"They're ignoring a call by the European Union to make them more efficient."

The report defines cost-effective policies that would save 3.7 million tonnes of CO2 in 2010, and 6.5mt in 2020.

Of the savings, 80% would come from increased electricity efficiency, 15% from switching from electricity to gas, and 5% from more efficient use of gas.


electricity pylon at dusk
Fuel-switching can help efficiency
To encourage fuel switching, the report suggests the development of a carbon market, which would include carbon budgets for the fuel utilities.

These would be reduced annually, and information would be provided to householders through an annual carbon bill.

Inconsistent

Some researchers question the idea that human activities are inducing rapid climate change.

They say the evidence is weak, highlighting the inconsistencies between the temperature records taken at the Earth's surface, which show rapid warming over the last two decades, and the data produced by satellite and balloon studies.

These show little or no warming higher in the atmosphere over the same period.

These scientists say our understanding of climate processes is still very limited, and that any computer models of future change must be treated with extreme caution as a result.

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See also:

24 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Energy efficiency plea spurned
17 Nov 99 | The Economy
Utilities face tough regulation
10 May 00 | Sci/Tech
UK 'must make huge carbon cuts'
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