Independent lab tests have found that some Samsung TVs in Europe appear to use less energy during official testing conditions than they do during real-world use, raising questions about whether they are set up to game energy efficiency tests.
The European commission says it will investigate any allegations of cheating the tests and has pledged to tighten energy efficiency regulations to outlaw the use of so-called “defeat devices” in TVs or other consumer products, after several EU states raised similar concerns.
The apparent discrepancy between real-world and test performance of the TVs is reminiscent of the VW scandal that originated in the US last week. The car company has admitted fitting software to 11m diesel vehicles worldwide which meant the cars produced less pollution during testing than real-world driving.
Samsung strongly denies that its TVs’ “motion lighting” feature is designed to fool official energy efficiency tests or that it constitutes a defeat device. The company says it reduces screen brightness in response to numerous types of real-world content including fast-moving action movies and sports and slower moving footage such as weather reports – not just during test conditions.
“There is no comparison [between motion lighting and VW defeat devices],” a Samsung spokesman said. “This is not a setting that only activates during compliance testing. On the contrary, it is an ‘out of the box’ setting, which reduces power whenever video motion is detected. Not only that, the content used for testing energy consumption has been designed by the International Electrotechnical commission to best model actual average picture level internationally.”
The apparent differences came to light in unpublished lab tests by an EU-funded research group called ComplianTV which recorded consistently higher energy consumption rates for the company’s models in real-world situations than in official test conditions.
The lab studies found that Samsung’s ‘motion lighting’ feature reduced the TV sets’ brightness – and power consumption – under international electrotechnical commission (IEC) test conditions. These involve the playback of fast sequences of varied material, such as recorded TV shows, DVDs and live broadcasts.
But under real-world viewing conditions, no reductions in power consumption were registered, making the sets’ power consumption, fuel bills and carbon emissions correspondingly higher.
After tests in February, a ComplianTV report, which did not name Samsung, said: “The laboratories observed different TV behaviours during the measurements and this raised the possibility of the TV’s detecting a test procedure and adapting their power consumption accordingly. Such phenomenon was not proven within the ComplianTV tests, but some tested TVs gave the impression that they detected a test situation.”
“Samsung is meeting the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law,” Rudolf Heinz, the project manager of ComplianTV’s product lab, told the Guardian.
Some of the ComplianTV study results were presented at a Royal Society meeting sponsored by the Energy Saving Trust in London on Tuesday.
There is no suggestion that Samsung, the world’s biggest TV manufacturer, behaved illegally, although energy efficiency campaigners claim that EU testing procedures are overly generous.
In response to a Guardian inquiry, the European commission pledged to outlaw the use of defeat devices within the bloc’s TV ecodesign regulations, and said that any allegations of their use would be fully investigated.
“The commission is proposing specific text to clarify that [the use of defeat devices] is illegal and that products found to behave differently under test conditions cannot be considered compliant,” a spokesperson said. “The commission will investigate whether this practice is used in other product sectors.”
Several EU states have already complained about the problem, including the Swedish Energy Agency in a letter to the European commission earlier this year.
“The Swedish Energy Agency’s Testlab has come across televisions that clearly recognise the standard film (IEC) used for testing,” says the letter, which the Guardian has seen. “These displays immediately lower their energy use by adjusting the brightness of the display when the standard film is being run. This is a way of avoiding the market surveillance authorities and should be addressed by the commission.” The letter did not name any manufacturers.
“There’s more than a whiff of diesel fumes coming out of this, with officials finding gadgets that recognise test conditions and alter their behaviour,” said Jack Hunter, a spokesman for the European Environmental Bureau an environmental watchdog funded by European governments and international bodies. “If deception is proved for TVs, there’s bound to be a fresh hoard of angry customers à la Volkswagen.”
Three years earlier, the UK also told the commission that it had received intelligence indicating that some TVs had been pre-installed with default software settings that changed static video signals to dynamic ones, reducing luminance and power consumption.
“The purpose seems to be to pass the peak luminance measurement test and then reduce luminance (and power) to get a better energy label ranking when the on power is measured,” the correspondence says. “All very clever and it is not dimming so much that it makes a huge difference, but does the commission consider this an acceptable practice or is this a non-compliant activity?”
The commission did not respond to a request for its answer to the question. But one UK market surveillance officer told the Guardian that the use of defeat devices was “an area of increasing risk to us – not just in TVs but across the board and future programmes are being duly adjusted to look at these areas.”
Research underway by the National Resources Defence Council (NRDC) in the US has also uncovered what Noah Horowitz, the NRDC’s director for energy efficiency standards called “a curious anomaly with one manufacturer’s TV’s”.
More testing is planned to establish whether manufacturers are gaming television testing procedures. But “it wouldn’t take much for an unscrupulous manufacturer to install software to detect the unique ‘signature’ of the test and to then have the unit go into some sort of eco-mode and produce superior results (ie lower energy use) that wouldn’t occur under normal usage,” Horowitz said.
Televisions typically consume up to 10% of a typical household’s electricity use, according to coolproducts, a coalition of NGOs which campaigns for energy-saving product designs. The group says that across Europe, TVs now account for as much energy use as the combined electricity consumption of Sweden and Portugal, and that this figure is growing.
49M, South Africa’s leading energy saving campaign has released a new Business Energy Rating Index for corporates, retail and industrial businesses. The index was launched with the aim of promoting energy efficiency among businesses across the country to ensure the development of sustainable business enterprises.
The 49M Business Energy Rating Index will measure the electricity consumption of South African companies in terms of various parameters, the first of which being the usable space (all under roof operations excluding garages and store rooms as per SANS1544) occupied by the company in its buildings and operations. This will provide an indication of the company’s relative energy efficiency, expressed as a function of electricity consumption per square metre of usable space.
By calculating the energy rating of companies and listing them on an energy rating index, it becomes possible to establish trends of efficiency measures within various sectors. The index currently has 12 entries listed.
“For South Africa to be more energy efficient we need private and corporate citizens to do their bit. This inaugural index is aimed at establishing a national index reflecting the awareness and behaviour displayed by commercial and industrial businesses and their employees in matters relating to energy efficiency.”
“The Index uses a simple formula that is based on global standards. The index incorporates measures to be included in an organisation’s sustainability reports and will provide organisations with valuable engagement and reporting tools. We invite all organisations to participate in the inaugural 49M Business Energy Efficiency Behavioural Index,” says Pieter Pretorius, Eskom’s Acting General Manager, Strategic Marketing Initiatives and Brand, adding that participation is voluntary.
Additionally, Pretorius says all companies are invited to participate by providing accurate information on their usable operational space and their annual energy consumption. Companies that are already reporting on sustainability are also urged to participate.
“The index will provide organisations with an additional reporting measure for sustainability reporting. Companies will also benefit through structured and assisted employee engagement. It is an opportunity to measure efforts made by organisations – against their industry counterparts, as well as the rest of the world,” Pretorius says.
The Index will be updated quarterly as more organisations provide information to participate. The Index is listed at business.49M.co.za
Source: All Africa
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Green Business Journal 9 (2013)
Coal: currently supplying more than 40 percent of the world electricity consumption, providing an essential 70 percent input of world steel production, and representing approximately 30 percent of the global primary energy supply. Why is coal such a widely utilised resource today? It is cheap, abundant, easily accessible, widely distributed across the globe, and easy energy to transport, store and use. For these reasons, coal is predicted to be used extensively in the future. But, being a non-renewable resource, its production and use inevitably results in various issues across the value chain.
The primary mandate of the International Energy Agency (IEA) is to promote energy security amongst its member countries through collective response to physical disruptions in oil supply, and to provide authoritative research and analysis on ways to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 28 member countries and beyond.
In doing so, a report was researched and created by IEA which focuses on the technology path to near-zero emissions (NZE). The phrase “21st Century Coal” was adopted by the US and China to describe the importance of strategic international partnerships to advance the development of NZE technology and the report demonstrates the reasons for confidence in coal’s ability to provide a solution to the global objectives of economic sustainability, energy security, and NZE, and is broken up into four areas of consideration.
1. Coal and the CO2 challenge
Discussed here are the benefits of and the need for coal, issues associated with coal use especially related to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, as well as roadmaps to improve coal use and continue on a path toward zero emissions. With the increase in the global demand for energy comes the increase in the release of CO2 emissions. The IEA has found that with attempting to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the costs of achieving climate goals are significantly reduced when carbon-capture and storage (CCS) technologies are implemented. This, along with increasing the thermal efficiency, can effectively lower carbon emissions from fossil-fueled power plants. The development and deployment of advanced coal with CCS technologies that is needed to achieve substantial carbon emission reductions will require extensive research, development, and demonstration investment.
2. Evaluation of advanced coal-fuelled electricity generation technologies
The IEA report provides insights into groundbreaking technology innovations for advanced coal plants to improve efficiency and reduce emissions including CO2. The report finds that there are multiple types of coal-fueled power plant technologies that exist or are being developed, but considerable advancement still needs to take place in this regard. More advanced, future technologies are definitely capable of further improving efficiency. In particular, fuel cells hold the potential of achieving increases in efficiency of up to 60 percent.
3. Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS)
Focus is drawn to the potential for enhanced oil recovery (EOR) to enable the economic viability of CCS, together with the need for and status of CCUS demonstrations. CCS demonstrations are needed most often on power plants as these plants play major roles in releasing carbon emissions. But, significant government support is needed for these demonstrations to be carried out. The utilisation of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) seems to be the way forward as additional streams of revenue assists the feasibility and capability of the projects. The IEA has found that methods to increase carbon storage in conjunction with EOR may further increase the capacity to store.
4. Flexibility of coal-fuelled power plants for dynamic operation and grid stability
The essential features of fossil fuelled power plants are assessed on their ability to operate dynamically on grids with intermittent wind and solar. Improving the flexibility of existing and developing coal plants can be accomplished through various strategies which involve both technical and operational improvements. These include implementing coal plant flexibility as early in the design process as possible, when it is most effective; optimising use of the capabilities of existing control systems; and collecting and using lessons learned to establish better operating practices.
It is technically possible today to incorporate equipment to capture CO2 in all types of new coal fuelled power plants. Depending on available space and other considerations, such equipment also can be retrofitted to existing coal fuelled plants. The importance of retrofit should not be underestimated based on the large number of new coal units being added.
Unfortunately, today’s CO2 capture technology is very costly. A recent review by the IEA of a variety of engineering studies conducted by a range of organisations that showed the cost of electricity from a new coal power plant with CO2 capture was estimated to be from 40 to 89 percent higher than a new coal plant without CO2 capture.
Ultimately, in order to get over the hurdle and achieve the cost reductions brought by technology maturity, it will be necessary for governments to specifically support CCS demonstration projects with capital grants as well as support for the power prices. Even if additional revenues can be obtained from the sale of CO2 for EOR, they may not be sufficient to allow full financing in all cases.
While coal use remains significant, its continued use has been challenged by growing environmental concerns, particularly related to increases in anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Adding technologies that can reduce CO2 emissions from coal (primarily by using CCS or CCUS) is possible but adds considerable cost, risk, and complexity to coal fuelled power plants, particularly at their current stages of maturity.
Coal remains an important and prevalent fuel for the production of electricity. Its low cost, abundance, and broad distribution make it attractive for power production, particularly in emerging countries such as China and India, where coal fuelled power has increased dramatically in recent years as demand for energy and the higher standard of living it brings have grown along with the population.
I thought that you might be interested in a green issue with the Cape Town City Council, writes our reader, Peter Brooks:
Their CTCC is claiming to be green – and they are doing some good things, like supporting solar water heaters and large solar farms.
City discouraging domestic PV generation
However, they’re doing their best, despite the capacity problems with Eskom, to discourage individuals from having domestic solar electricity panels fitted. They’re doing it by making the finances unattractive.
From their website:
Residential customers that want to be compensated for energy that they place on the grid will be required to move to the SSEG tariff structure and to have an industrial bi-directional AMI credit meter installed. The purchase and installation of this meter will be done by the City and will be for the generator’s account.
Residential small-scale embedded generation tariff comprises of the following charges which will be updated annually:
- A daily service charge of R13.03 for the use of the grid.
- An electricity consumption charge per kWh consumed. This is currently 109.17c per kWh.
- The rate per kWh at which the City will purchase excess generation. This is currently 49.72c per kWh and is exclusive of VAT. The City of Cape Town will credit the consumer’s electricity account in Rands (not kWh’s).
Residential generators that want to connect to the grid, but do not wish to be compensated for energy placed on the grid can remain on their existing tariff structure, but will be required to install a device which blocks reverse power flow. The City of Cape Town indicates that it will not permit existing meters to run backwards.
They’ve reduced the amount they pay for electricity already from 56.28 to 49.72 – at this rate you have to give the city 26kwh free, as well as pay for the meter so they can rob you, before they’ll pay you anything, which really isn’t a good deal at all. If you do ever need to take net power out of the grid they charge more than double, so, to break even you have to put back 2kwh for every one you take out.
Nobody seems to have picked this up, so the CTCC is able to present a false green image. Perhaps you could help with an article exposing this.
Practical difficulties make savings inappropriate, says City
The City responded as follows:
The City is certainly not trying to mislead residents with regard to environmentally friendly initiatives such as the Small-Scale Embedded Generation (SSEG) tariff. The City has always been completely transparent about potential financial benefits for SSEG users. In an ideal world, it would be the case that selling power back on the grid resulted in savings for the consumer/producer, however there are certain practical difficulties in this regard that we have to contend with that make this inappropriate.
It must be noted that the figures provided by the letter writer are in fact incorrect. A copy of the tariff is attached. Furthermore it is unclear where the ’26 kWh for free figure’ was drawn from.
The City refunds SSEG consumers who feed electricity back onto the grid at approximately the same rate we would have paid Eskom for that electricity. Paying SSEG consumers more than the cost of Eskom electricity would mean that the additional cost of buying this electricity would have to be paid by electricity consumers who do not have SSEG. So many residents in Cape Town cannot afford to install PV infrastructure in their homes, so to impose this extra cost on them would be unfair.
Furthermore, residential consumers (who generally are not registered as VAT vendors) will not be refunded VAT and will be compensated 56,68 c less 14% VAT which amounts to 49,72 c per kWh. This is a SARS requirement.
In conclusion the City is fully committed to the adoption of solar power, and progress towards a more sustainable future. The tariff was formulated not to exploit, but to ensure that costs of providing electricity are recouped, and so that those who are not financially able to invest in solar power for their homes are not forced to make up for the shortfall.
From the Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services, Cllr Ernest Sonnenberg.
Council not understanding
Yet the issue was still not clarified, said Peter:
Unfortunately the council hasn’t understood the most important point. The 26kwh came from their figures without VAT.
Their figures from their website are:
Service Charge: R13.03 Per Day
Energy Charge – Consumption 109.17 c/kWh Energy Charge – Generation 56.68 c/kWh
Service Charge = R 13.03 per day = 1303 cents per day.
To generate this: 1303 / 56.68 = 23kWh
So every day, with their scheme, you have to give them 23kWh of generated electricity free before they’ll pay anything.
The average electricity consumption around the world is here. South Africans consume an average of 4,389 kWh per year = 12 kWh per day.
Home generators must produce a surplus
So the Cape Town council is asking people who generate their own electricity to produce a surplus of over twice the average consumption per house in the country! This makes it completely uneconomic.
The other way of looking at it is: With solar power you don’t get any electricity at night. So, if you generate all the power you need during the day but still need power at night – say half the national average, 6 kWh. Then the Cape Town city council will charge you:
109.17 * 6 = R 6.55 a day, on top of the R13.03 a day = R18.58 per day
If you have no solar power, then your nightly cost is:
153.63 * 6 = R9.12 per day.
So, help out by taking all your power of the grid during the day, and the City Council will charge you twice as much for your nightly consumption!
Either way you look at it that’s a huge penalty they’re imposing to discourage the use of electricity.
What service are you charging for?
If they stopped the ‘service charge’ (what service are you getting if you generate your own power that and ordinary consumer doesn’t get?… none) then it would be fair.
My point is that the ‘Service Charge’ of R13.03 a day means you have to either give 23kWh (26 if you exclude VAT) to them free before you get anything back – or you have to pay twice as much for your power at night.
Why is there this huge tax on home solar power?
The City will have the opportunity to respond again…
Source: The Green Times