A lack of standards is holding back awareness of energy-consumption issues in the consumer electronics market, unlike in the business market, according to HP executives.
"The awareness is quite low today," said Bernard Meric, senior vice president for external affairs. "We don't see customers shopping for IT products because of energy consumption."
But high energy prices and new environmental regulations are driving companies such as HP to put the issues at the forefront when designing products. HP spent around six years preparing for a European Union directive that took effect July 1 mandating fewer toxic substances in products.
Business customers regularly include environmental and energy requirements when ordering products, as energy bills have a huge impact on competitiveness, Meric said.
Consumers have been used to energy ratings on "white goods," such as refrigerators or washing machines. But no standards have been established for the increasing panoply of digital cameras, printers and other consumer products.
But by 2010, the consumption of consumer electronic goods is expected to double, Meric said. HP expects energy to become a concern among consumers, he said.
As a result, HP said it expects its research and development costs to rise when that awareness takes hold. But without standards, it is difficult to write specifications for products.
"We welcome standards for us to be able to compete," Meric said. "Regulation is a different thing."
The European Commission is encouraging European standards bodies to create criteria for measuring energy consumption, said Hans Wendschlag, of HP's Environmental Strategies Europe.
HP already has about 1,000 products that adhere to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program, a power-saving model introduced in the early 1990s, Wendschlag said.
Zoe McMahon, HP's environmental strategy manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said the company isn't nervous about regulation, however, as it can create a level playing field.
But McMahon suggested a better avenue for governments is to include energy-efficient requirements when buying goods.