Energy Efficiency – Why is Saving Money a Controversial Issue?

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that it was taking steps to enforce Energy Efficiency standards.   This announcement and all resulting enforcement actions should be applauded, since such actions get to the heart of concerns about the viability of current standards and can restore trust in those standards.  It also implicitly acknowledges a statement that is heard more and more often by utilities and energy efficiency experts – the cheapest electricity is the wattage that is not produced. 




This concept is summed up as the Negawatt – defined in the Smart Grid Dictionary as the “watts of energy saved through a reduction in energy use or increase in energy efficiency.  It is the greenest form of energy.” 

California is a leader in Negawatts.  As previously noted in my October 12 blog, the California Energy Commission (CEC) has defined energy efficiency standards for appliances sold and used in California since 1976.  The results of those actions are that per person, annual electricity consumption in California has remained steady at 7,000 kWh while electricity consumption has risen to 12,000 kWh in the rest of the USA. 

What this means is that Californians are not wasting money on electricity-guzzling appliances.  However, 35 million devices are omitted from that appliance list – California TVs.  The CEC wants to remedy this gap in the standards with regulations for TVs sold and used in California.  Docket # 09-AAER-1C Appliance Efficiency Regulations Pertaining to Television Efficiency contains the information about the regulation under consideration.

This standards proposal is facing fierce opposition from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).  In keeping with Halloween, they are filling editorial pages with fear and gloom – this regulation will kill retail jobs. 

Could an EnergyGuide label, which would identify annual operating  costs (electricity consumption) for a TV and also rank that TV’s overall energy efficiency on a scale of best to least efficient force Californians to drive across state borders to buy “bootleg” TVs from Nevada, Oregon, or Arizona?  According to this logic, Californians must be doing this already for all of the other appliances covered by CEC EnergyGuide standards since 1976. 

Today I counted 26 appliance stores within a 10 mile radius of my Bay Area zip code, ranging from small businesses to large national chains.  Californians are still buying appliances locally, and perhaps they appreciate that their annual operating costs for these appliances are lower as a result of the energy efficiency standards.

The CEA opposition does raise a couple of questions.  Why oppose it?  Over 1000 TV sets already qualify for the standards that would be imposed in 2011.  Some manufacturers, like Vizio, support the standards.  The CEA claims that an energy efficiency standard would “stifle innovation”.   Wouldn’t it also promote innovation in designs that reduced energy consumption, innovations that could probably be extended to other uses too?

May the most energy-efficient manufacturers win – because it’s a triple win.   It means more Negawatts out there, it means reduced need for more power plants and it means reduced TV operating costs for every consumer.

The Smart Grid takes energy efficiency to new levels of savings, as noted in an October 20 press release.  Manufacturers like GE and Whirlpool are participating in the recently launched Smart Green Grid Initiative (SGGI), a collaborative industry association that demonstrates the role of smart grid technologies and practices in the achievement of climate change goals.  One of the ways to do that is through energy efficiency and smart appliances that can communicate with the electrical grid.  I didn’t see the CEA on that list of enlightened manufacturers and industry associations.

And with Halloween in mind – like many other appliances, TVs are energy vampires.  Even when you turn them off, they are still drawing power.  The only way to cut the power completely is to unplug them, or put them on power strips that have “kill” switches for complete cessation of power draws.  You can buy dumb power strips for as little as $6 and see an ROI in as little as a month.  If you do have some devices that MUST be drawing electricity 24X7, there are intelligent power strips available that accommodate those needs too.  The bottom line is that these are simple steps for residential electricity customers to save some money, generate Negawatts, and reduce carbon footprints.