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California's new TV energy efficiency standards highest in the world

SAN FRANCISCO, California, November 20, 2009 (ENS) – The California Energy Commission Thursday unanimously adopted the world’s highest TV energy efficiency standards. The standards will make new TVs 30 to 50 percent more efficient and represent the first regulation of energy efficiency by a state government.

The federal government has voluntary Energy Star guidelines in place for computers, but there is no federal energy efficiency standard for televisions.

The new energy efficiency standards apply to new televisions measuring 58 inches (1,400 square inches) and smaller sold in California beginning January 1, 2011. The standards will improve the energy efficiency of televisions without affecting the quality of the television image.

The first standard (Tier 1) would take effect January 1, 2011, and reduce energy consumption by average of 33 percent.

The second measure (Tier 2) would take effect in 2013 and, in conjunction with Tier 1, reduce energy consumption by an average of 49 percent.

The technology to make TVs more energy efficient is available now and currently used now in a variety of models. As of late-September 2009, more than 1,000 TVs already meet the 2011 standards, the commission said.

In California, televisions – along with DVRs, DVD players, and cable/satellite boxes – now consume about 10 percent of a home’s electricity. Increasing sales of flat screen televisions, larger screen sizes, the growing number of TVs per household, and increased daily use of televisions all contribute to greater electricity consumption, the Energy Commission says.

Some exisitng televisions already meet the new California standards. (Photo by Cliff Ravenscraft)

These standards "will save consumers money on their electricity bill, conserve energy, protect the environment, and achieve it with on-the-shelf technology currently available,” the commission explained, estimating that consumers will save $18 to nearly $30 per year per television.

“Additionally, these regulations will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decrease the need to build additional, large power plants,” the commission said.

The largest manufacturer of flat screen TVs in the nation, Vizio; television component manufacturers 3M and Agoura Technologies; the LCD Television Association; the Natural Resources Defense Council, and all three major California electric utility companies – Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison – endorse the new regulations.

Retailers including Wal-Mart, Costco, and Sam’s Club have agreed to emphasize selling energy efficient TVs.

“With today’s decision, Californians will still get that great ‘hi def’ picture without suffering the burden of skyrocketing electricity bills,” says Noah Horowitz, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“By simply establishing minimum energy efficiency standards for new TVs, we can cut the state’s electricity use by almost one percent. The benefits are massive as we’ll save the same amount of electricity each year as that used by all the homes in Anaheim and Oakland. It’s a simple solution with major payback for both consumers and the state,” Horowitz said.

But the Consumer Electronics Association, an industry organization based in Arlington, Virginia, with more than 2,000 members, objects to the new standards.

Jason Oxman, CEA’s senior vice president of industry affairs, said California’s new standards are “dangerous for the California economy, dangerous for technology innovation and dangerous for consumer freedom.”

“Instead of allowing customers to choose the products they want, the Commission has decided to impose arbitrary standards that will hamper innovation and limit consumer choice,” Oxman said. “It will result in higher prices for consumers, job losses for Californians, and lost tax revenue for the state.”

The California Energy Commission responds, “The state is not banning any type of TV. Consumers will have the freedom to choose any type and size of television that meets the efficiency standard.”

Oxman argues, “The CEC’s actions over the past year demonstrate that this regulatory process is broken. The commissioners repeatedly rebuffed attempts from the CE [consumer electronics] industry to provide input or correct the litany of errors and flawed assumptions upon which these misguided regulations are based,” he said.

“The Commission has ignored the concerns of small business owners and consumers who will be adversely impacted by these regulations and the detrimental effect they will have on California’s job market and economy,” Oxman said.

“Energy efficiency is a shared concern for all parties. In fact, the consumer electronics industry has led the effort to reduce energy usage by with innovative, energy-efficient products, and consumers have responded with increased demand for these products,” said Oxman. “The industry has been so successful, that in the last two years alone energy efficiency of televisions has improved by 41 percent. But rather than build on these efforts, the CEC chose to create a new regulatory regime and micromanage the design and development of future televisions.”

Oxman warned that the the new energy efficiency standards could be brought into court. The Consumer Electronics Association will “pursue legislative and legal solutions to ensure that California citizens will not suffer the consequences of this misguided policy,” he said.

But Horowitz of the NRDC says the new California energy efficiency standards represent the future of the industry. “The newly adopted California TV standards will be the most advanced in the world,” he said. “If history repeats itself, we expect many policy makers around the world to establish similar standards in the not too distant future.”

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