One of many free information sessions in CES Tracks, Dollar and Watts was a panel discussion on the use of energy in consumer products.
The five man panel consisted of a very knowledgeable group on consumer electronics: Don Bartell, Senior Director of Environmental Initiatives, Motorola; Jay McLellan, President and CEO of Home Automation Inc.; Michael Murphy, Environmental Affairs Manager for Dell; Josh Will, Vice President, Televisions, Best Buy; and The Honorable Alex Padilla (D-CA), Senator, California State Senate.
The discussion revolved around energy consumption questions asked by the moderator as well as some Q&A at the end. But the real message that hit home was that green or energy efficient products are more expensive initially because consumers aren't demanding these products. As both Mr. Will and Mr. Murphy pointed out, while some consumers are interested in the idea of an energy efficient product, it is usually low on the buying list after cost, brand, and style considerations.
When a member of the audience pointed out that many people don't want to pay extra for a service, such as an energy efficient laptop or printer, the panel agreed that the price would remain high for eco-friendly products until consumer demand picked up. As Mr. Murphy mentioned, it costs the manufacturers more to make innovative, top of the line products.
But almost everyone on the panel agreed that changes are being made regardless of the demand. Mr. Bartell reported that Motorola Set Top Boxes went from using 23 W of energy in 1998 to 11 W of energy in 2007. Today, he said, the boxes use only 5.7 W of energy.
Mr. Murphy of Dell also mentioned that his company made a 50 percent efficiency gain in their products from 2002-2006 and another 25 percent gain from 2008 through the present. He claims that a Dell laptop purchased in 2005 could cost a user $100 to $150 to run as compared to a Dell laptop purchased in the present that would cost about $5 to $7. That was an incredibly impressive stat.
As Senator Padilla pointed out, there are incentives for consumers that purchase energy efficient products besides the saving on the monthly bill. Many local energy companies offer rebates on Energy Star qualified and other eco-friendly products. Congress is also considering the Cash for Caulkers program endorsed by the President last year. Some homeowners could receive up to $12,000 per year in rebates if the bill passes as proposed.
As the entire panel agreed, there are "limitless possibilities" when considering how to improve energy consumption in consumer technology beginning with the manufacturing, shipping, usage and proper disposal. It's hardly a topic that will become old news in years to come.
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