Korean Efficiency

September 07, 2008
September/October 2008
A version of this article appears in the September/October 2008 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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Energy efficiency measures in Korea are underway that are at the forefront of market transformation and energy savings. One, a mandate to attach a warning label to any new consumer electronics products that don’t meet energy efficiency standards for standby power, will encourage the manufacture of fewer “phantom power” hungry appliances. In the second program, agents from the major appliance manufacturers will go door-to-door to consult on minimizing electricity waste in the home.

Korea’s e-Standby Label Program

The Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE) and The Korea Energy Management Corporation (KEMCO) will begin a mandatory warning label program this year for manufacturers of consumer electronics with the goal of reducing standby power to less than 1 watt. The national standard is currently between 1 and 3 watts, and the program, until now, has been a voluntary one.

When an appliance doesn’t meet the national standards, it must show a yellow warning label (see image) similar to the “Surgeon General’s Warning” on cigarette packages. The yellow label states, “This product fails to meet standby product standard required by the national energy utilization act.” The mandatory labeling policy doesn’t stop the manufacturers from producing energy-inefficient products, nor does it prevent the product’s sales, it does make the consumer (and the manufacturer) aware of their choice, however, as well as costing the manufacturer in fees. This kind of mandate targets the manufacturer, by causing them to introduce their own deterrent to buying their products.

The buyer is purchasing the product—and plugging it in—at his own expense.  With no expense for the government, this program will rapidly speed the development of alternatives to standby power.  There are currently about 300 million electronic devices in use in Korean homes. According to the official report of Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute (KERI) the average standby power is 3.6 watts, which equals an annual loss of $US476 million nationwide or 11% of Korean home energy, or 306 kWh per year per home.
For the first years of the program, until 2010, the label will be found on six common appliances: Analogue T.V. sets (those with CRT screens), set-top boxes, personal computers, printers, multi-function devices such as fax-printer-scanners, and computer monitors. This e-standby labeling program has been voluntary since 1999 and will be mandatory in 2010.  

Home Energy Doctors

The second program is spearheaded by the Korea Energy Management Corporation (KEMCO) and the Korea Electronics Association (KEA), including major appliance manufacturers such as Samsung Electronics Company and LG Electronics. The voluntary program, called “Home Energy Doctors,” aims to reduce the electricity used in apartment buildings.

For the remainder of 2008, each participating apartment will have a house-call from an agent from one of the volunteering manufacturers who will analyze energy use of 13 different appliances, and advise on 32 different ways to improve savings or performance. Appliances measured include televisions, set-top boxes, miocrowaves, refrigerators, kimchi refrigerators, rice cookers, tea kettles, light fixtures, washing machines, and computer systems. The modifications may involve education, such as turning down a computer monitor’s brightness for less energy use, or a service, such as cleaning an air conditioner’s filters (and advising on doing so regularly). The visit is both an analysis and a consultation, leaving tenants as well as apartment managers educated and more energy-conscious, but this may also be informative for manufacturers to learn first-hand how their products are being used, and to what impact.  
The majority of Koreans, from all classes, live in apartment buildings, with 100-200 households per building and 1,000-2,000 dwellings in a single complex of buildings. As 80% to 90% of new construction in Korea is apartment buildings, to blanket this sector of housing is a large undertaking, and can have astronomical potential for energy savings. Participants intend to visit 60,000 homes per day for the remainder of 2008.

Leslie Jackson is Home Energy’s associate editor.

For more information:
For information on the Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy,  go to www.mke.go.kr/language/eng/main.jsp.

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