Turn Off that TV!

The California Energy Commission has proposed energy efficiency standards for new televisions to be sold beginning in 2011 in an effort to reduce a substantial increase in electric demand from those big flat panel televisions.

Before you roll your eyes and grumble, “California is at it again!” consider this. According to the CEC, televisions and the peripherals that plug into them now consume 10 percent of a typical home’s electricity use and that share of demand is growing along with their market penetration.

Put that statistic in context, a 42 inch plasma flat panel TV consumes about 400 kWh/year compared to about 100 kWh/year for a traditional (and smaller) TV while efficiency gains from other appliances have been going the other way.

For example, from 1972 to 2003 the efficiency of refrigerators sold in the US increased 298%, central A/C unit efficiency increased 68%, and washer efficiency increased 113% according to the US DOE.

Holy Channel Surfing, Homer!

The law of unintended consequences is biting us big time.  Put it this way: The increase in energy demand from flat panel TVs in recent years has erased ALL the efficiency gain from refrigerators, central A/C, and clothes washers since 1977.

TV manufacturers recognize the need to address this issue and newer models such as LED technology are increasingly available.  In fact, more than 400 television models already meet the 2011 CEC-proposed standard and 100 models meet the 2013 standard. The CEC published such a list of models that already meet these proposed standards which can be found at http://www.energy.ca.gov/appliances/List_of_TVs.PDF .

While some trade groups and manufacturers opposed this new regulation, the chorus of those in favor is growing and includes Vizio, the second largest maker of flat screen TVs in the nation; TV component producers 3M and Agoura Technologies; the LCD Television Association; the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and all three major California electric utility companies, Pacific Gas and Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison. Retailers signing on as well include Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Fry’s who said they will promote TVs according to energy efficiency.

Under the proposed regulations, the first standard (Tier 1) takes January 1, 2011, and is expected to reduce TV energy consumption by about 33%. The Tier 2 standards kick-in in 2013 and are expected to result in overall average energy consumption of 49 percent.

Maintaining California’s Energy Efficiency Leadership

The goal of this new regulation is to continue to grow California’s economy while building energy efficiency into the products we buy and use daily.

As consumers we are offered a range of products and we buy the one that best balances performance, quality and price. If a popular product like flat panel TVs continues to expand market penetration with each incremental unit sold increasing energy use by 4 times the TV it replaces soon California will need additional power plants to meet that demand.

California’s per capita electricity consumption, about  7,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh), has been flat for the past 30 years despite the state’s substantial growth in population, the number and average size of homes built and more appliances consuming power because of the state’s energy efficiency standards for buildings and appliances.

By comparison, the rest of the U.S. has increased energy consumption per capita by 40 percent (to roughly 12,000 kWh per person).  See www.energyalmanac.ca.gov/electricity/us_per_capita_electricity_2005.html

Will this make any difference?

The CEC estimates that given the current replacement rate for TV these new efficiency standards will save a total of 6,515 GWh of electric energy demand or enough energy to power 864,000 single-family homes for an entire year.

A gigawatt hour is equivalent to having 40,000 televisions on for five hours a day for an entire year.

A final Energy Commission vote is on these produced regulations is expected by summer 2009 following public comment. You can download the CEC draft standard proposed at: 2008 Appliance Efficiency Rulemaking: Draft Efficiency Standards for Televisions, Phase I, Part C – DRAFT STAFF REPORT, publication # CEC-400-2008-028-SD. (PDF file, 26 pages, 620 kb)

Now turn that TV off and go outside and play!

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