This proliferation of electronic devices, if not made more energy efficient, will undermine efforts to increase energy security and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. The answer to this problem will not be found in stemming the tide of electronic gadget envy, because there is no way we will be able to do that. Instead, we must encourage the development of better devices that are built more efficiently and run on less energy.

Programs like Energy Star have already started improving our electronically dependent world.  Last year as a result of Energy Star, Americans saved $6,000,000,000 while also saving enough energy to power over 10,000,000 homes.  However, the Energy Star program as it is currently structured cannot solve the problem due to the limited number of devices it covers.

To address this, I am reintroducing, the Smart Electronics Act. The bill would require the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to report to Congress within a year on several key areas to ensure we achieve the clarity needed for industry to thrive. First, the DOE and EPA must assess the potential for energy efficient electronics to receive an Energy Star designation, and the potential savings accrued (e.g. cost, energy) through a specific program focused on smart electronics. Second, they must assess the global growth of electronics usage and utilization and the associated energy consumption. Lastly, the bill calls for the DOE and EPA to standardize a process for defining, categorizing, and ranking technologies as ‘smart’. If it is deemed appropriate, a smart electronics emphasis would be incorporated into the Energy Star program, and a Smart Electronics Registry allowing manufacturers and sellers to register their smart electronics products established.

 The bill defines smart electronics as devices that cooperate with the electrical grid to cut down on energy consumption. This minimization can be achieved through power-factor correction, utilizing stand-by options, communication and monitoring with the smart grid, taking advantage of off-peak charging and operation, on-demand and variable processing speed semiconductors, or switching to a lower power mode.

Importantly, this legislation will help us green the electronics industry by providing the private sector with reliable standards and incentives and by educating and empowering consumers to make smarter and more efficient choices – all of which help cool the planet.

Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) represents Silicon Valley and is a member of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition.