Computers account for an estimated 5% of total U.S. commercial energy consumption. The Environmental Protection Agency says much of this energy is wasted because too many PCs are left on when not in use. By minimizing such waste, says the EPA, $1 billion worth of electricity can be saved annually. The EPA's Energy Star Computers Program has signed up 17 partners, including IBM, Compaq, and Apple, to develop PCs and monitors that use 30 watts or less when idle -- 60% less than today's average.
Computers that comply will carry a special EPA logo. Among the first low energy models is one from IBM, scheduled for sale next May. Big Blue's "green" desktop machine has a flat-panel display and a low-voltage 486 chip, and makes heavy use of notebook computer components. The entire system uses 19 watts of power at rest and 46 watts in use, both about one-fifth the power of a standard IBM-brand PC.