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European Standard set to improve energy performance of external power supplies

Increasing demand for electrical energy has motivated the drive to reduce energy consumption, as suggested by the European Climate Change Programme. Thus, the decision was made to adopt substantial demand side measures.

The Ecodesign Directive 2009/125/EC (Energy-related Directive) lists products which have been identified by the Council and the European Parliament as priorities for the Commission for implementation, including consumer electronics and office equipment. Such equipment is often powered by external power supplies (EPS), converting mains power to a supply with characteristics specific to 'primary load products', for example, mobile phones or notebooks. Power conversion efficiency and no load condition power consumption are an important aspect for the energy performance of primary load products and EPS is one of the priority products groups considered for implementing measures under ecodesign.

In order to improve the efficiency of external power supplies, the Technical Committees CENELEC TC 108X and TC 59X have published a final draft standard. The new standard – EN 50563:201x – specifies the methods of measurement of electrical power consumption for external power supply units, which are expected to cut their electricity losses by nearly a third by 2020. The resulting savings of 9TWhr will be enough to power Lithuania for a year and will reduce annual CO2 emissions by more than 3million tonnes.

EN 50563 has been drafted in response to an EC mandate calling for a harmonised standard incorporating state of the art measurement methods to provide a reproducible, reliable and accurate method for measuring power consumption. The method specified by the standard is applicable to external power supplies with an input within the range 100V ac to 250V ac and with a single output not exceeding 250W.

The final draft of EN 50563 applies to a wider range of products than the EC Ecodesign Regulation and refers extensively to EN 62301:2005 'Household Electrical Appliances Measurement of Standby Power' – which was written to support Ecodesign legislation. At an international level, IEC 62301:2011 is the superior norm for measuring standby power. However, this does not specify safety requirements or minimum performance requirements, nor does it set maximum limits on power or energy consumption.

As a supplement to IEC 62301, EN 50563 describes specific requirements for measuring and determining the no load power and average efficiency of active modes for external ac/dc and ac/ac power supplies. Furthermore, EN 50563 includes test method provisions based on those published by the US Environmental Protection Agency and under Australia/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 4665.1. Similar to the IEC standard, the US Energy Star Programme and the Australian Minimum Energy Performance Standard identify and promote energy efficient products.

What's covered by EN 50563
Power supplies which fall within the standard include those with user selectable output voltage, as well as fixed output voltage and those capable of automatic switching to meet a range of output voltages so as to be compatible with one or more product loads. The standard is specifically limited to describing methods for the measurement and reporting of power consumption, so while the standard supports the EC Ecodesign Directive, guidelines for product safety and safety precautions to performing measurements are out of scope.

Furthermore, the scope of the standard is limited to those external power supplies having only a single output and falling within specific power and voltage ranges.

Issues to be considered
Since EN 50563 pursues the requirements set by the Energy-related Directive 2009/125/EC and bu Commission Regulation (EC) 278/2009, most manufacturers of power supply units already obey the standard and its limits. Conformity assessment, for example, has to be conducted by the internal design control system or the management system for assessing conformity. This means manufacturers have to compile a declaration of conformity and to provide information in the technical documentation on average active efficiency and no-load electric power consumption.

In addition, ecodesign (see box) is an approach to the design of a product with a particular thought for the environmental impacts of the product during its entire existence, including raw materials, manufacturing process, retail, usage, waste and recycling. As consideration for the use of the product during its lifecycle is grabbing more importance, so have the first steps of the product's conception taken on more significance.

Although EN 50563 delivers a method to measure power consumption, it doesn't include any energy efficiency level mark, as with AS/NZS 4665.1.

The main environmental aspect is the electricity consumption of external power supplies in the use phase – the losses associated to the conversion of mains power to power suitable for a particular primary load described by the 'average active efficiency' and the no load power consumption. The improvement potential is due to the fact that technical solutions exist, which reduce the no load electricity consumption and improve the active average efficiency of external power supplies, while providing the same functionality and reducing the life cycle cost. This leads to a wide disparity of electricity consumption of external power supplies available on the market.

Technologies which reduce the electricity consumption in the use-phase also imply lower material weight, which leads to a reduction of the environmental impacts related to production, distribution and disposal of external power supplies.

Furthermore, the ability to demonstrate compliance with environmentally friendly standards is an effective means of differentiation in a competitive marketplace. In addition, manufacturing electronic products to appropriate ecodesign standards maximises their compatibility with those manufactured or offered by others, thereby increasing potential sales and widespread acceptance.

Ecodesign aims to reduce the environmental impact of products, including their energy consumption, throughout their entire life cycle. A framework within which compulsory ecodesign requirements are set enables a coherent and integrated approach, from the design of a product through to an assessment of its natural resources and raw materials requirements, ending with an assessment of manufacturing, packaging and transportation costs, both environmental and economic.

The Ecodesign Directive affects both energy using products and other energy related products. Although the EU has sought to reduce the negative administrative impact on manufacturers, new duties apply to manufacturers. The first of these duties requires the energy consumption of a product be as low as possible. Secondly, information will be required with regard to best practice in use of the product. Thirdly, the manufacturer may well be required to perform a lifecycle analysis of the product in order to identify alternative design options and solutions for improvement.

While the Eco Directive can appear daunting, it is navigable if all product specific requirements are considered carefully prior to market launch. Many manufacturers will prefer to employ a third party accredited organisation to ensure their product meets the stringent EU requirements of both observing the strictures of the Directive and declaring CE Conformity.

Timo Silonsaari is with SGS' Electrical and Electronics Certification Services division.

Timo Silonsaari

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