California TV Sales Restriction Fight Rages
Energy Commission, CEA spar over proposed energy-efficiency requirements.
October 14, 2009 by Steven Castle

The fight over proposed sales restrictions of energy hogging TVs in California is raging on, with both sides making impassioned cases before the California Energy Commission (CEC) in a public hearing yesterday, Oct. 13.

The CEC has proposed limiting the sales of TVs in the state to only those that meet energy-efficiency standards, starting in 2011 and with a second, stricter tier of requirements in 2013.

Trade groups such as the Consumer Electronic Association (CEA) and the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA) oppose the proposed restrictions, saying it would eliminate the sale of many plasma-based and large-screen LCD TVs. The CEA has also claimed the restrictions would cost California residents money and result in job losses in TV manufacturing and related fields.

The CEC discounts the CEA’s economic predictions and claims the restrictions would save California residents an average of $30.24 per TV unit in the first year and a total of $912.1 million per year in avoided electric bills. The CEC says the restrictions will also save the state 615 megawatts of electricity in peak demand reduction, resulting in $615 million saved on building a new power plant, at a cost of $1 million per megawatt. It estimates greenhouse gas reductions of 43 percent per million metric tons of carbon dioxide and 3.1 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year.

The first tier of proposed energy-efficiency standards, which would go into effect in 2011, would not be as strict as the new Energy Star 4.0 standard recently announced by the EPA, which starts in May 2010. The second tier of California standards, which would go into effect in 2013, would closely follow the Energy Star 4.0 standards of 2010 and not be as strict as Energy Star 5.0, set to go into effect in 2012. Energy Star, however, is a voluntary program and intended to identify more energy-efficient products. The CEC has also elected not to apply the energy-efficiency requirements to sets over 58 inches in screen size.

Speaking in favor of the proposed sales restrictions were representatives from LCD TV manufacturer Vizio, the LCD TV Association, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, Environment California, and the United Defense Fund, among others.

Speaking against the proposal were representatives from CEDIA, Panasonic and the CEA.

The CEC maintains that more efficient TV technologies such as ambient light sensing, LED backlighting, more efficient plasma innovations, and more efficient films will enable TVs to meet the standards and increase their energy efficiencies. “From a consumer perspective, the average 42-inch screen would realize hundreds of dollars in energy savings [over the lifetime of the product],” said Harinder Singh of the CEC.

“HDTVs are rapidly becoming the Hummers of the home. It’s high time that the state of California take on the Fred Flintstones of the television industry,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro of the non-profit group Environment California, speaking in favor of the proposal.

CEA spokesperson Doug Johnson called the CEC’s data on energy savings “flawed,” “out-of date,” and “grossly overestimated.”

The CEA contends that CEC data used in developing the regulations came from a survey of TVs conducted before the current Energy Star 3.0 specification went into effect, and that 1,200 TVs now meet the voluntary standard. The EPA has since approved more stringent Energy Star 4.0 and 5.0 standards due to the large number of TVs that presently qualify.

The crux of the CEA argument is that the sales restrictions will stifle innovation.

Seth Greenstein of the law firm Constantine Cannon, speaking on behalf of the CEA, said plasma-based and LCD TVs would have never been developed had such sales restrictions been in place. “With voluntary compliance, manufacturers can meet the standards over time,” he said. “By allowing it to proceed as a voluntary program, we can achieve those energy savings. It’s not going to happen by regulation that says you can’t bring a product to market if it doesn’t meet these standards. It’s not going to work.”

“Product development requires flexibility, not regulation,” Johnson told the CEC. “There is a better way to achieve energy reduction.”

A CEC member said the commission has repeatedly asked the CEA to provide data to support its claims that voluntary energy-efficiency initiatives can lead to more energy savings, but has received none. The CEC also chided the CEA’s “seemingly contradictory” statements in saying TVs can meet voluntary Energy Star standards quickly, but cannot meet the CEC’s less stringent energy-efficiency levels. “These contradictory statements are not data,” the CEC said.

The CEA promised to submit data to the CEC by the November 2 deadline. A hearing on on the possible adoption of the proposed restrictions will be held Nov. 4.


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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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