California Seeks To Stop Energy-Guzzling TVs - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers

California Seeks To Stop Energy-Guzzling TVs

TVs, digital video recorders, DVD players, and cable boxes now consume 10% of the electricity used in the home, state officials say.

California regulators are proposing energy-efficiency standards for new televisions in order to stem rising electricity use by consumers buying bigger and fancier flat-panel TVs.

The California Energy Commission is proposing that the standards take effect from 2011 to 2013. The new regulations, which the commission is expected to vote on during the summer, are needed in order to help curb energy consumption in the home, where TVs, digital video recorders, DVD players, and cable boxes now consume 10% of the electricity used, state officials say.

Reducing overall energy consumption is part of the state's strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Less energy use decreases the need to build additional power plants, which are a contributor to such emissions.

Opponents, however, claim the new regulations are unnecessary and damaging to the state's economy and consumers' pocketbooks. Based on an estimate that the proposed standards would result in 25% fewer televisions on store shelves, California would lose $50 million a year in sales tax revenue and 4,600 retail jobs, according to a study commissioned by the Consumer Electronics Association, which represents most TV manufacturers.

"There's no debate on the need for energy efficiency," Doug Johnson, senior director of technology policy at CEA, told InformationWeek on Wednesday. "The debate is on the approach."

The CEA believes the same level of energy efficiency will be achieved through Energy Star, a voluntary program in which products meeting federal energy-efficiency standards can display a logo indicating compliance. Johnson said the program is "working well" at reducing consumption. "The commission's proposal is completely unnecessary."

However, the commission believes the CEA has it all wrong. Many TV manufacturers today meet the standards proposed for 2011, and the agency is confident that research under way will provide the energy efficiency needed to meet the stiffer standards that would take effect in 2013.

"The argument that store shelves will be bare is nonsense," a spokesman for the Energy Commission said. "TV lobbyists making those claims don't take into account that technology evolves. They're saying in essence that in removing stock from the shelves, there won't be anything to take its place. If that was the case, then we would still be buying eight-track cassettes."

By 2013, the reduction in energy consumption from compliant TVs would equal the amount of electricity used today to power 864,000 homes for a year, the Energy Commission spokesman said. In addition, TV watchers would spend from $50 to $250 less on electricity per television, depending on the size and features.

The commission's proposals have garnered support from some tech companies, including Vizio, the second-largest flat-panel TV maker in North America; Aguora Technologies, which is developing technology for more energy efficient LCD screens used in TVs; and 3M. The proposed standards also are supported by the LCD TV Association.

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