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ITU's universal power adapter standard maximises energy efficiency




By Bunmi Adeniyi

Lagos. November 2, 2012: The 155-member states of Geneva-based International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have endorsed a new technical standard for Universal Power Adapters (UPA) for devices such as modems, set-top boxes, home-networking equipment and fixed-wired telephones.

Although manufacturers of adaptors and designs differ, the technical specifications will be the same worldwide for all devices, minimising duplication and cutting waste.

The new standard specifies basic configurations and general requirements for power adapters worldwide and their interfaces such as cables, connectors, input and output voltage, current, energy efficiency, safety, electromagnetic compatibility, resistibility and eco-environmental assessments.

The adapters are made for ICT devices in consumers’ homes. For now, they convert high-voltage AC mains from power grids into low-voltage DC input into devices. In future, the UPAs could be compatible with high-voltage DC sources such as renewable energy systems or power sockets found in transportation systems such as boats, trains, planes and buses, among others.

The ITU standard will complement its very successful Universal Charging Solution for mobile devices, enabling further energy savings, reductions in e-waste and enhanced consumer convenience by expanding the concept’s application to the vast majority of ICT devices, a statement by the UN specialised agency coordinating the global telecoms industry says.

Moreover, it will also benefit countries not equipped with reliable AC power grids, as it will be compatible with standalone AC produced by renewable energy sources including the 5V and 12V power interfaces of small photovoltaic systems (solar energy).

Hamadoun Toure, Secretary-General, ITU, says that, “Our global standard for universal phone chargers received a very warm welcome from vendors and consumers, and I am certain that this new universal power adapter standard will enjoy the same worldwide success. These important environmentally-oriented standards will markedly reduce e-waste and greenhouse gas emissions, while saving money for vendors and consumers through more efficient use of raw materials and energy.”

Globally, the new standard will extend the lifespan of adapters to ten years, reduce the number of adapters that may be manufactured, facilitate adapter reuse and recycling, and increase their quality and resilience to voltage fluctuations. Moreover, it will minimize energy consumption in ICT equipment manufacture, limit device duplication, reduce strain on raw materials and thereby reduce e-waste substantially.

A University of Genoa study, commissioned by ITU and the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI), estimates that an energy-efficient UPA solution would eliminate about 300,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, reduce the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of external power supplies by between 25 and 50 per cent.


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