Consumer Electronics Seek Edge By Going Green

TV manufacturers are building energy saving techniques into products.

As television sets grow to mammoth proportions and computers gobble energy at work and at home, the consumer electronics industry is slowly coming around to the idea of ecology to stay competitive. Executives at the world's biggest high-tech fair in Germany said that while they were not yet leaders in the fight against global warming, they hoped that more efficient products would appeal to cost- and environment-conscious consumers.

"Caring for the environment is our objective," the Advanced Plasma Development Centre (APDC) alliance comprised of three Japanese manufacturers of flat-screen televisions, Hitachi, Panasonic and Pioneer, proclaimed. At its CeBIT stand, two televisions are on display: on the left, a plasma screen and on the right, a liquid crystal display (LCD), each with a gauge of how much electricity it uses. The plasma reads 171 watts versus 269 watts for the LCD.

"More and more consumers are asking about how much energy the products consume, just like with refrigerators," said Hitachi product manager Jacob Teodorsson. "The plasma set saves energy because it consumes less during darker scenes," he said, explaining while the LCD screen's energy consumption remains steady, the plasma set fluctuates "based on the amount of light broadcast."

The APDC is working on new technologies that could cut the plasma screen's electricity consumption by 75%. Plasma screen manufacturers are appealing to consumers' guilty consciences about global warning to gain an edge over LCD makers, which have fared better in the rivalry between the two standards.

Meanwhile Japan's Sharp was showing of "the biggest LCD television in the world" weighing in at 300 kilogrammes and measuring 2.72 meters diagonally. Production manager Thies Radeloff said. Radeloff admitted that the prototype consumed "a lot" of electricity but he said that in most homes, the light bulbs use more energy than the television. Sharp says it is trying to reduce the amount of electricity used with each new generation of products. Some bear the European ecolabel -- a small flower indicating that a product respects the environment.

But the majority of new television sets cannot be fully switched off and thus remain on standby as the electricity bill climbs. "If in Germany we turned off all our devices that are on stand-by we could shut down two nuclear power plants," Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said. Official statistics show that German households use 33 billion euros (US$44 billion) worth of electricity with devices on stand-by.

Due to its high-definition images, Sony's new PlayStation3 requires much more energy than its predecessor, while the new features of Microsoft's new operating system Windows Vista requires a more powerful computer to run it.

Electronics giant Fujitsu-Siemens says it is doing its part for the environment by ensuring all its computers go into sleep mode automatically after not being used for a few minutes. As Europe's top computer maker, Fujitsu-Siemens has been selling "green" products for a few years which have reduced amounts of lead in some components. The company is also gradually cutting the amount of other toxic substances inside its computers.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007

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