California Adopts TV Energy Regs

California has become the first state in the nation to adopt energy efficiency requirements for TVs.

The long-awaited move has been fiercely opposed by manufacturers and their trade group, the Consumer Electronics Association.

However, the California Energy Commission has moved forward, voting 5-0 to adopt the regulations. The state already has strict standards for other products such as refrigerators, air conditioners, and washing machines. The reduction in energy use will save the average household $18-30 a year and avert the need to build a 500-megawatt power plant. TVs and other video gear are responsible for 10 percent of power consumption in an average household and two percent in the state of California overall. See CEC FAQ.

The National Resources Defense Council hailed the vote: "With today's decision, Californians will still get that great 'hi def' picture without suffering the burden of skyrocketing electricity bills," said senior scientist Noah Horowitz. See NRDC statement. The new regs are also supported by one manufacturer: Vizio.

CEA VP Jason Oxman demurred, calling it "bad policy" and saying the "arbitrary standards" would raise TV prices, hamper consumer choice, and cost the state both jobs and tax revenue. See CEA statement.

Both friends and foes have predicted that California's TV energy standard is likely to be adopted by other states, becoming a de facto national standard.

The new rules apply to TVs up to 58 inches, requiring them to use fewer than 183 watts by 2011, a reduction of 33 percent; further tightening the requirement to fewer than 116 watts by 2013, a reduction of 49 percent. More than 1000 models already meet the state's requirements.

The federal government's Energy Star program provides voluntary energy efficiency requirements for TVs. Some, but not all, TVs on the market in California and elsewhere are Energy Star certified. Energy-efficient TVs are not exactly rare.

While the new rules do not specifically outlaw (or even mention) plasma sets, one result may be to give LCD sets an advantage due to their greater energy efficiency. Some manufacturers say they have more energy-efficient plasma designs in the pipeline.

This story isn't over. It's just begun.