California requires TVs to be more energy efficient

In a Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009 photo, Doug Pongrazc checks out a large screen television while shopping at a Best Buy store in Elk Grove, Calif. While flat-screen TVs have become the top sellers, they are also major energy hogs. The most power-hungry television sets could soon be banned from store shelves in California as state energy regulators on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009 consider a first-in-the nation mandate intended to lower electricity demand. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

November 18, 2009 6:38:56 PM PST
Power-hungry TVs will be banned from store shelves in California after state regulators Wednesday adopted a first-in-the-nation mandate to reduce electricity demand.

In a unanimous vote, California adopted the country's first energy mandate for televisions.

All TVs up to 58-inches sold in this state beginning in 2011, must use one-third less energy and two years later, the power drain must drop by half.

The new regulation targets power-hungry flat-screens because TVs now account for 10 percent of household energy usage.

"What standards do is nudge up the bottom of the market and essentially say all TVs that are produced have to meet basic standards," said California Commission Chairwoman Karen Douglas.

California has always been the leader in low energy consumption. Power usage has remained flat for three decades, despite population growth.

Replacing all 35 million sets in the state with more efficient ones would alleviate the need for another power plant.

"It'll save Californians close to $1 billion a year in the form of lower electric bills and will save as much electricity as that consumed by all homes in Oakland and Anaheim," said Noah Horowitz from the National Resources Defense Council.

Early this year, the consumer electronics industry showed us a television that's compatible with an iPod and claims that extra feature puts power usage over the new limits. Therefore, that model couldn't be sold in California.

It called today's vote bad policy that's dangerous for the California economy, dangerous for technology innovation and dangerous for consumer freedom.

It also points out retailers can use every dollar they can get in this recession.

The Commission says more than three-quarters of televisions sold today already comply with the 2011 standards. That's more than 1,000 models.

Jay Aguas is shopping for a 52-inch television and the Commission's decision doesn't bother him.

"If you could save energy and you could save costs, it's not a bad deal," he said. "From that stand-point, consumer-wise, I don't have a problem with it."

For those who do, buying TVs online or outside California will remain legal, even if they violate the new limits.