California Approves TV Efficiency Rules

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California regulators on Wednesday approved the nation’s first energy efficiency standards for televisions, requiring their electricity consumption to be cut nearly in half by 2013.

“This is a consumer protection measure, a measure that will protect the environment and which will save us from building a massive new power plant,” said Karen Douglas, chairwoman of the California Energy Commission, at a meeting in Sacramento.

The five energy commissioners voted unanimously to require television manufacturers to produce new models that use 33 percent less electricity by 2011 and 49 percent less electricity by 2013.

In recent years, televisions have become one of the home’s biggest energy hogs as ever-larger flat-screen models have proliferated.Energy commission staff estimate that televisions and various set-top boxes now account for about 10 percent of residential electricity consumption in California, up from 3 to 4 percent in the 1990s. Without imposing standards, as California has done for a number of other home appliances, electricity use by televisions could jump to as much as 18 percent by 2023, according to the commission.

“By any reasonable standard, any appliance that is approaching 10 percent of energy consumption warrants energy efficiency standards,” said Julia Levin, an energy commissioner, adding that the regulations would save consumers nearly $1 billion a year in electricity.

The Consumer Electronics Association, a trade group, as well as Sony, Panasonic and other television manufacturers, strongly opposed the standards, arguing they would stifle innovation and lead to higher costs.

“Television manufacturers will see an increase in the cost of compliance due to increased research and development, component sourcing, design and development,” wrote Tim Brison, a senior vice president for Sony Electronics, in a Nov. 2 letter to the commission.

The manufacturers were joined by California retailers, who contended that consumers would abandon local stores and drive across the border to Nevada or go online to buy televisions not required to meet the state’s standards.

The energy commissioners, however, said that there were about 300 televisions on the market that already complied with the 2013 energy efficiency standards.

California’s largest utilities supported the new televisions standards, which Massachusetts is also considering adopting.

“This represents an important advance,” for the state in reaching its energy efficiency goals, Gary Fernstrom, a program engineer with Pacific Gas and Electric, told the commissioners on Wednesday.

Jason Oxman, a senior vice president with the Consumer Electronics Association, criticized the energy commission for relying on what he characterized as outdated studies to draft the energy efficiency standards.

“The consumer electronics industry and California consumers bear the burden of the regulations so PG&E can meet its energy milestones,” Mr. Oxman said during a news conference on Wednesday.

The regulations do not apply to televisions with screens larger than 58 inches. That led Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist with Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, to urge the commissioners to later revisit establishing energy efficiency standards for those televisions.

“They are coming down in cost, and TVs are getting bigger all the time, and we need to make sure they don’t take off on us,” Mr. Horowitz, who was deeply involved in pushing for the new regulations, said.

by TODD WOODY (New York Times)

This is an update to our other news story of California looking Into a HDTV law

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