Energy Efficiency Standards and Information Deliver Results

The California Energy Commission (CEC) is holding a hearing on October 13 in Sacramento regarding energy consumption and energy efficiency for TV sets.  To some TV manufacturers, this is unnecessary regulation.  To other manufacturers, the three leading investor-owned utilities (IOUs) in California, and environmental groups, these standards are overdue to address a growing problem of electricity consumption.

The TV industry opposition seems so drearily familiar to other industries that have complained about other regulations.  Some readers will recall the vehemence that met seat belt regulations and requirements for catalytic converters.  The auto industry made a number of wild claims about them that turned out to not be true.

Here’s a little history lesson:  In 1976 the CEC first set standards for appliances sold and used in California.  The results of those standards are that per person, annual electricity consumption in California has remained steady at 7,000 kWh.  For the rest of America, electricity consumption has risen by 40% to 12,000 kWh.  Reduced consumption of electricity means reduced energy bills.  Reduced consumption of electricity means avoidance of building power plants.

In California, TVs, DVRs, DVDs, and cable/satellite boxes consume 10% of a home’s electricity.  The standards that the CEC proposes would apply to new TVs sold after January 1, 2011, and would reduce energy consumption by 33%.  A second tier of standards proposed for 2013 would bump up the reductions in energy consumption to 49%.  That ka-ching sound you hear is money you can save in operating costs.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also announced changes for TVs seeking Energy Star compliance in September 2009 – they must be 40% more energy efficient than conventional models starting May 1, 2010.  In May 2012, the rules require that an Energy Star-labeled TV must be 65% more efficient than current models.  The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) expressed concern about the EPA focus on energy consumption rather than energy efficiency.  Why are they concerned?  Given the propensity for consumers to purchase ever larger TV sets, it is important for us to understand the true impacts of our purchase decisions with regards to electricity use.  Did you know that a 42 inch LCD TV uses less electricity than a 42 inch plasma TV?  Did you know that an old technology like a cathode ray tube (CRT) only uses .23 watts per square inch versus the LCD’s .27 watts per square inch?  Did you know that a new flat panel TV typically consumes more electricity than your refrigerator?  Considering that TVs are operated for an average of 5 hours every day, the use of TVs that are electricity guzzlers will add up – and impact not only your wallet but the overall electricity requirements of your local utility.

Given the success of the current CEC energy efficiency standards, we really need similar standards for TVs.  However, one really important piece of information is missing for consumers mulling over purchase decisions for TVs.  There are no EnergyGuide labels on TVs.  Yes, the ubiquitous label on many other appliances does not exist for TVs.  The EnergyGuide label tells you the yearly electricity requirements for the product in question and also ranks that product’s overall energy efficiency on a scale of best to worst (most energy efficient to least energy efficient).  EnergyGuide labels help consumers calculate annual operating costs and provide invaluable information for consumers who want to buy energy efficient products for their green benefits and to save money.  Why isn’t there an EnergyGuide label for TVs?

That’s a separate battle to be fought, but in the meantime, the CEC is taking a good first step with its hearing on Tuesday, October 13 about electricity use in TVs.