Nation/World

California may regulate TV energy use

State considers imposing efficiency standards

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – That 52-inch, flat-screen television on the family room wall might have a terrific picture, but there’s a big drawback: It’s an energy hog.

State regulators are preparing to curb the growing power gluttony of TV sets by drafting the nation’s first rules to require retailers to sell only the most energy efficient televisions starting in 2011.

The consumer electronics industry opposes the new regulations, expected to pass in mid-2009, and claims that they could force some TVs to be removed from store shelves and slightly boost sticker prices.

But the California Energy Commission is looking for ways to relieve the demand on the power grid. Officials say the proposed standards, once fully in place, would reduce the state’s annual energy needs by the same amount of power consumed by 86,400 homes.

During peak viewing times the state’s TV sets collectively suck up the equivalent of 40 percent of the output generated by the San Onofre nuclear power station in San Diego County. Televisions account for about 10 percent of the average Californian’s household monthly electricity bill.

Some manufacturers could struggle to meet the new standards, particularly those that make plasma TVs. And the regulations could create a gray market, sending consumers intent on buying power-hungry models to Amazon.com and other Internet retailers based outside the state.

Television sales are growing by 4 million a year, and the majority are flat-panels. LCD – liquid crystal display – sets on average use 43 percent more electricity than conventional, picture-tube TVs, and larger models proportionately more. Plasma TVs, which command a relatively small piece of the market, need more than three times as much power as bulky, old-style sets.

The regulations would phase in, with a first tier taking effect on Jan. 1, 2011, and a more stringent second tier on Jan. 1, 2013. Purchasers of Tier 1-compliant TVs would shave an average of $18.48 off a residential electric bill in the first year of ownership, the Energy Commission estimates. Tier 2 sets would save an additional $11.76 a year.

Over the years, California has pioneered similar tough standards for appliances, home insulation and food service equipment that eventually were adopted by the federal government and promoted to consumers with utility rebate programs.

“I think this is basically doable,” said Commissioner Arthur Rosenfeld, an international leader for more than three decades in finding ways to save energy by boosting the efficiency of household appliances.

“Refrigerators and air conditioner manufacturers have grown up with standards, and, now, they are generally considered successes.” he said. “But this is a new wrinkle for the TV industry.”



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