November 19, 2009

California Considers Ban On Power-Hungry TVs

California could soon begin banning the most power-thirsty television sets as the state's energy regulators begin consideration on Wednesday of the nation's first mandate to lower electricity demand.

If enacted, the regulations would require TVs sold within California to have increased energy efficiency beginning in 2011.  The requirements would be stricter in 2013, with just 25 percent of the TVs on the market currently meeting the standard.

Experts say televisions account for roughly 10 percent of a home's total electricity use.  But there is concern that the added energy requirements of larger televisions or additional sets purchased by consumers will rise by as much as 8 percent annually.

Some TV manufacturers say applying such a power standard will stifle innovation, limit consumer choice and ultimately hurt California retailers because consumers could simply buy TVs out of state or via the Internet.

The new standards would apply to all TVs up to 58 inches, but would accommodate increasing power use for larger sets.

For instance, all new 42-inch television sets must use less than 183 watts by 2011 and less than 116 watts by 2013.  Those standards are significantly more efficient than flat-screen TVs sold in recent years.

According to Energy Commission research, a 42-inch Hitachi plasma TV sold in 2007 uses 313 watts, while a 42-inch Sharp LCD TV draws 232 watts.

LCDs currently account for about 90 percent of the 4 million TVs sold in California each year.

An Associated Press report cited industry representatives as saying that the new standards would force manufacturers to produce televisions with poorer picture quality and fewer features than those sold elsewhere in the country.

If adopted, the new standards would not be the first time California has led the nation in setting efficiency requirements.  The state has previously enacted standards for dishwashers, washing machines and other household appliances as a way to meet increasing demand for electricity.

Utilities and environmental groups say the TV standards should thwart steep increases in home electricity use and rising energy bills.

The Energy Commission report said an energy-efficient TV would save about $30 a year per set per household.  Indeed, if all of California's 35 million televisions were replaced with more efficient sets, residents would save $8.1 billion over the next decade, the report said.

The new regulations would not apply to televisions larger than 58 inches, a concession made to independent retailers that sell high-end home-theater TVs.  However, those sets account for no more than 3 percent of the market.

State commissioners are expected to regulate the larger televisions at some time in the future.