Energy Limits Enacted on Calif. Big-Screen TVs
California Energy Commission votes to limit sales to efficient TVs starting in 2011.
November 18, 2009 by Steven Castle

The California Energy Commission (CEC) today voted to enact restrictions on the sales of energy-hogging TVs up to 58 inches in screen size.

The new restrictions will limit the sales of TVs in the state to only those that meet energy requirements, starting in 2011. A second, stricter phase of requirements is slated to go into effect in 2013, and could include restrictions on sets larger than 58 inches in size.

The vote by the CEC culminates a months-long battle fought contentiously by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The CEA disputes the CEC’s findings and contends that the CEC’s data is flawed and the energy savings overstated, therefore violating California law by imposing greater costs on consumers.

The CEC says California residents will save 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 $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.

After 10 years, the commission estimates the regulations will save $8.1 billion in energy costs and save enough energy to power 864,000 single-family homes.

A study the CEA commissioned by Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems claims that energy-saving programs and technologies such as Energy Star; forced menu functionality that put a TV into a more energy-efficient home viewing mode; and auto shutdown are likely to save California a minimum of 440 GWh per year. “Savings from consumer education could reach 550 GWh per year, and the potential gains through consumer incentive programs could be as high as 560 GWh,” according to the study.

The CEA also claimed that the regulations will have a potentially devastating impact on commerce, costing California more than 4,000 jobs and approximately $46.8 million in tax revenue.

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.

Several representatives from the CEA spoke out against the proposed regulations during an Oct. 13 public hearing that was at times contentious, with a CEC commissioner at one point chiding the trade organization for “seemingly contradictory” statements in saying TVs can meet voluntary Energy Star standards quickly but cannot meet the CEC’s less stringent energy-efficiency levels. The commissioner also chided the CEA for failing up to that time to submit proof of its claims to the CEC during the public comment period.

On Nov. 2, the CEA delivered 91 pages of responses to the proposal to the CEC, minutes before the deadline for public comment and effectively postponing a vote the Commission had planned on the matter for Nov. 4. The CEC’s Valerie Hall requested more time so the CEC could review the submissions.

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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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