Power Adapters Graduate From Energy Star

As of 2011, you won’t be able to find an Energy Star-labeled external power adapter—which is actually good news from an energy-saving, greenhouse-gas-reducing perspective.

Five years after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began nudging the devices toward greater efficiency, the regulators are claiming victory. Efficient adapters have so thoroughly penetrated the market, EPA says, that the Energy Star label is virtually meaningless and will go away on Dec. 31, 2010.

image via U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

External power adapters are everywhere, charging electronics like phones and cameras. An EPA estimate puts their number at 2.7 billion in the United States.

In a press release, the agency detailed the history that brought the devices to their current state, providing an interesting case study in market transformation via regulation. External power adapters were added to the Energy Star program in 2005, and within three years half the devices on the market qualified for the exalted status. So in 2008, the Energy Star standard was raised and the old standard became the mandated minimum efficiency standard for all adapters. By 2009, more than half of the devices were meeting the new, tougher Energy Star standard.

And what has all this effort brought us? Well, according to EPA, “energy use associated with external power adapters nationally is estimated to be 12 billion kWh less per year than it would have been had their energy performance stayed where it was in 2005.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.