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Energy Awareness Month Marks Major Milestones in High-Tech Industry

As the U.S. Federal Government continues to pave the way toward energy security and renewed economic prosperity, investments in clean energy technologies are likely to accelerate at an unprecedented pace. Replacing vehicles with fuel-efficient hybrid and alternatively-powered vehicles is transforming manufacturing and the automotive infrastructure; consumer demand for more efficient products is reducing energy consumption; green building is tapping into sustainable products, materials and renewables. Much like the energy efficiency movement has permeated these industries, it's no wonder sustainability and energy efficiency are taking on such large roles in the high-tech industry.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy and the ENERGY STAR® program, October was first proclaimed Energy Awareness Month in 1991. For more than 15 years, government organizations - in partnership with businesses, associations and concerned citizens - have observed this month with activities and programs to promote public understanding of our energy needs and to reduce energy consumption in our everyday lives.

As we look at the history of the movement, we realize how far we've come. Building in energy efficiency and sustainability into products and manufacturing operations has become the new norm. Key industry drivers include consumer interest and demand for more sustainable products as well as companies that make them, reducing the perception of ‘greenwashing' and new regulatory elements being introduced by government bodies including the EPA, Natural Resources Canada (NRCAN), the European Union (EU) and the California Energy Commission (CEC).

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has taken the lead in helping companies reach product and corporate sustainability goals.

Testing, certification and systems assessment

It's no longer enough for manufacturers to say their products are energy efficient; in order to maintain credibility and brand reputation, manufacturers now seek to have energy efficiency claims verified by trusted third parties. UL assists high-tech manufacturers in achieving compliance with ENERGY STAR and other government regulations through testing and certification. It is one of the few labs that have received accreditation by The International Accreditation Service (IAS) to test consumer electronics and information technology equipment for compliance to the ENERGY STAR requirements. And, through UL Environment, UL offers its own Energy Efficiency Certification (EEC) Mark, which is applicable across multiple product categories.

In addition to developing more energy efficient products, many manufacturers are starting to look at a product's entire life cycle in order to build a more sustainable product. UL Environment serves as the certification body qualified to review products to meet the IEEE 1680 sustainability standard for high-tech equipment, basing its environmental assessment on a product's entire life cycle - from raw materials to manufacture, use and disposal.

Beyond products, UL has also seen a growing trend in companies seeking innovative ways to increase the operating efficiency of their telecommunications networks by essentially improving energy efficiency while maintaining reliability. UL can aid companies is reviewing, building and analyzing new models for electronic cooling of telecommunications equipment.

Standards development

UL is working with manufacturers, government entities, product engineers and designers and consumer interest groups to develop new sustainability standards within the high-tech industry. Several have been announced or are on the horizon.

In response to industry demand, UL Environment recently announced a collaborative effort to develop sustainability standards for handheld consumer electronic products, including but not limited to mobile phones, digital audio players, calculators, digital cameras, video games, e-readers and GPS navigation systems. UL sees a real market need for a standard that guides manufacturers in creating more environmentally friendly options for some of the most popular consumer technologies.

UL also plans to develop sustainability and safety standards for modular data centers and all of their components, including servers, racks, interconnect, cooling and power subsystems. The next logical step involves standards development for audio/video equipment.

So what does this mean for manufacturers in the high-tech industry? UL offers:

  • EPA-accredited laboratories - UL was recently named an accredited third-party certification body for the ENERGY STAR program. Effective January 1, 2011, all ENERGY STAR products will require third-party certification for claims validation.
  • Access to multiple markets
  • Expert opinion and real-time updates to changing regulations
  • Exemption from quality assurance requirement under EPA and DOE based on manufacturer's participation to third party certification program
  • Service alignment with UL safety-testing and access to cutting-edge facilities strategically located around the world
  • The ability to customize your experience and testing needs, from simple test reports to larger energy efficiency products

As an early-adopter and expert in safety and sustainability standards and certifications, UL and its subsidiaries are trusted partners for manufacturers looking to go green.

For further information, contact Truda Chow.