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New study shows that chip-enabled technologies can substantially reduce electricity consumption

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A new study released last week by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) shows that chip-enabled technologies have revolutionized the relationship between economic production and energy consumption. The study was commissioned by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).

“On any given day a consultant might use his home-office to ‘telecommute’ rather than drive to the office, or a business executive may video-conference with her clients in Europe and avoid a flight across the Atlantic. A downed power line may trigger a series of actions to prevent an area blackout, an industrial motor may slow down to adjust to a decreased load, or a GPS navigation system may give instructions to a delivery truck driver on the shortest route to cover all of his deliveries. These many different events all share one thing in common—semiconductor technologies that enable energy savings.”

The ACEEE study reported that further adoption of semiconductor-enabled technologies could lower electricity demand by 1.2 trillion kilowatt hours in 2030, a consumption level that is 22% less then the Department of Energy’s base case and 11% less than today, even though the economy is about 70 percent larger. To put this in perspective, without these technologies, the U.S. would need an additional 296 large electric power plants, and consumers and businesses would need to spend an additional $126 billion.

The International Energy Agency also released a study last week, Gadgets and Gigawatts: Policies for Energy Efficient Electronics. This study concludes that electronic devices have made a major contribution to the recent growth in total residential energy use. So what leads to the difference in conclusions drawn from the ACEEE and IEA studies? The IEA study focuses solely on the energy consumption of electronic devices themselves. What it doesn’t account for is the overall energy efficiency gains that these devices are enabling in other parts of the economy.

The conclusion we draw from both of these studies is that in order to design effective energy policies, we need to look at the whole picture. Companies will continue to design products that are increasingly energy-efficient. But it is also time to identify the public policies that will help to harness the power of information and communication technologies (ICT) to drive energy efficiencies across the entire economy. This is where the big opportunity lies.

In order to tackle this challenge, Intel is working as part of the Digital Energy Solutions Campaign (DESC) to promote policies that will use technology solutions to help solve the energy challenge, mitigate climate change, spur innovation and economic opportunity. Our partners are technology leaders like Dell, HP, Microsoft and NGOs like The Climate Group, Alliance to Save Energy and WWF.

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