Could smart power supplies help save the planet?

At the start of a new year, perhaps some of us might have resolved to reduce, reuse, and recycle a little more to help save the planet from global warming – but how do we accomplish this while continuing to live our modern lifestyles?

Turns out that moving to a cave in the mountains and living off the grid may not be that practical, but it might still be comforting to know that every time we have to switch on a light or charge our laptops, we are collectively contributing to energy savings as appliance and device manufacturers keep up with increasingly stringent energy-efficiency regulations.

Around 40 percent of the emissions reductions required by 2050 to limit the global average temperature increase to less than 2 degrees centigrade could potentially come from energy efficiency measures, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA)[1]. Experts also estimate that efficiency programs save energy at a third of the cost of new generation technology[2], making energy efficiency an ideal way for consumer and industrial energy markets alike to contribute to emissions reductions.

Appliances and lighting – areas for improvement

Overall, electricity consumption in the 27 IEA countries across the world has flattened, partly as a result of energy efficiency improvements; energy efficiency investments since 1990 saved a total of 2,200 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2014. However, the last few decades have seen a marked increase in the numbers of major household appliances, with the total stock having grown by 130 percent between 1990 and 2014. Without efficiency gains from the past 25 years, electricity consumption by major appliances would have been 39 percent higher in 2014.

Improved efficiency in lighting over the past two decades has also contributed to a decrease in electricity consumption, mostly due to more efficient light bulbs and spaces designed to use more natural light. Additionally, the IEA estimates that electric motor-driven systems account for between 43 percent and 46 percent of all global electricity consumption, giving rise to about 6,040 Mt of CO2 emissions.

Without comprehensive and effective energy efficiency policy measures, from electric motors is expected to rise to 13,360 TWh per year and CO2 emissions to 8,570 Mt annually by 2030. The widespread adoption of energy-efficient variable-speed drives in domestic appliances and industrial automation as an alternative to synchronous motors controlled by inverter-based drives could be a key factor in bringing down this total electricity consumption further.

Green chips

Power electronics and controllers are at the heart of green power systems for lighting, power supplies, and device chargers, making it possible to save energy practically anywhere and every time they are used. “Smart” electric power supplies are a game changer for energy savings, providing a smooth, no-sacrifice path to reducing the amount of power we use to charge our electronic devices and light our homes and cities.

As lighting manufacturers work to reduce costs for lamps and fixtures, the electronics used for lighting control are a prime target for cost reduction efforts. Innovations in digital power and integration at the silicon chip level are helping to meet that goal.

As laptops get slimmer and sleeker, consumers desire slim, sleek laptop chargers to match. But successfully manufacturing slimmer, lighter chargers requires MOSFETs in small packages that feature a good electromagnetic interference (EMI) and excellent thermal performance.

Power semiconductors and control electronics are a critical part of new, energy-efficient lighting technologies, and chips are at the heart of small, lightweight, and super-efficient power supplies and device chargers.

Infineon’s power saving demos at will include electronics to drive smooth dimming LEDs, energy-efficient fridge compressors, high-efficiency power supply components for home and street lighting, and tiny, super-efficiency power adapters and chargers. More information about Infineon’s demonstrations at CES 2017 is available at: www.infineon.com/CES.

References

1. IEA Medium Term Efficiency Market Report 2015

2. American Council for Energy-Efficiency as a Resource

Paolo Cocchiglia is Director of Marketing and Application in the PMM Power Management and Multimarket business group at Infineon Technologies North America Corp. He holds an MBA from Profingest Management School in Bologna, Italy, and an Electronic Engineering degree from Padua University, Italy.

Topics covered in this article