California on track to improve TV efficiency and lower consumers’ electric bills

For those of you that are more visually oriented, here is a graphical depiction of how the standard works.    Note, as a concession to the industry California has proposed to postpone regulation of TVs >58 inches till a follow-on rulemaking.

I am pleased to report that the California Energy Commission (CEC) recently released its proposed energy efficiency standards for new TVs sold in California. These proposed standards are due to be voted on by the full Commission later this fall and upon passage will represent the most stringent standards in the world. Here's why this matters:

These standards will cut the power use of new TVs by 30 to 50% and will save Californians almost a $1 billion dollars a year in the form of lower electricity bills. These standards will also accelerate the industry's adoption of more efficient designs and ensure that every model sold in California is an efficient one. 

*For those of you that are more visually oriented, here is a graphical depiction of how the standard works. Note, as a concession to the industry California has proposed to postpone regulation of TVs >58 inches till a follow-on rulemaking.*

We wholeheartedly support their passage and are doing all we can to make sure this happens. I have been representing NRDC and our more than 1.3 million members and e-activists during the Commission's more than 18 month proceeding.

But, as is often the case, this process hasn't been easy thanks to a misinformation campaign of epic proportions brought to you by the folks at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) - a DC-based lobbying group that is doing everything it can to prevent such regulations. CEA's most recent stunt includes creating a web based campaign centered around the misleading name of "Californians for Smart Energy". This is a textbook case of deception by an industry funded front group designed expressly to defeat the Commission's energy efficiency standards.

The CEA is philosophically opposed to mandatory standards and is recycling its usual litany of fabricated predictions of dire economic consequences, massive job losses and empty shelves. They previously made similar claims that proved to be totally untrue during their opposition to the Commission's highly successful efficiency standards that cover the ubiquitous black boxes called AC to DC power supplies that power our cell phones, laptops, cordless phones, routers and MP3 players. CEA also opposed, unsuccessfully, California's standards that limit the amount of power consumed by a wide range of consumer electronics when they are in standby mode (eg, when they are turned off.)  In both cases, California's standards have since been adopted by other jurisdictions around the world.

But here's the thing, trade associations have  been spreading these boogeyman stories on behalf of manufacturers for over 30 years every time California considers efficiency standards for things like air conditioners, water heaters, refrigerators and now consumer electronics. California, to its credit, has moved ahead anyway. And guess what - not a single one of these adverse impacts was ever observed. Today's air conditioners keep you just as cool, your refrigerator keeps the food just as fresh, and after passage of the TV standard you'll still get that great "high def" picture. Instead, California has prevented the need to build several costly power plants, new product features continued to develop, and the only difference most consumers observed was lower electric bills.

While the CEA staff continues to serve as the face of the opposition to the TV standards, we think they are doing a disservice to their members like Samsung and Sharp who have recently introduced some of the most energy efficient models on the market. Much of their innovation and hard earned environmental credibility or "greenness" is at risk of going down the drain by standing behind the CEA and its smear tactics. Fortunately  Vizio, a California based company and the leading selling brand of flat panel TVs in North America, has broken away from the pack and taken the courageous step of expressing their support for the Commission's standards.

It will be interesting to see if history repeats itself and other leading manufacturers step up and tell the CEA to support progress and innovation or they will terminate their CEA membership. A great parallel is the recent rush for the exits at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce where leading companies such as Apple, PG&E, and Exelon fled the organization due to its backward policies on climate change.

I will continue to report on future developments on the California rulemaking and other developments in this rapidly changing industry as they occur. In the meantime, for a more factual based and detailed summary of the proposed California efficiency standards and critique of the misconceptions created by CEA and perpetrated on California consumers, read on:

Economic impact - These standards are good for California's economy. With the use of off the shelf technologies and additional innovations that are coming very soon, there will be little to no incremental cost to meet the standards. Due to their lower energy use, these standards will put billions back into the California economy in the form of lower electric bills.

Jobs - CEA talks about thousands of lost jobs in California. First of all no TV production or assembly occurs in California, or the US for that matter. There is no basis for CEA's predictions of harm to the independent retailers. These retailers will continue to offer their customers a wide range of hi-end models to choose from.  For example, you can already buy state of the art 52 inch TVs with new LED backlights that are only 1 ½ thick, have  amazing contrast ratios, and easily beat the proposed 2013 standard.

TV Choice - The standards are performance based and technology neutral. The standards also scale with size, meaning bigger TVs are allowed to consume more power. In other words, consumers will continue to be able to choose any type of TV, whether it be LCD, plasma, DLP or some technology not even in existence today. Despite the misleading headlines that California is banning big screen TVs, one will continue to be able to buy TVs of any size, period.

Market Status - Today, more than 3 years before the standard goes into full effect, there are almost 300 models that already meet the Commission's Tier 2 energy efficiency requirements. These are made by all the leading manufacturers including Samsung, Vizio, Sharp, and Sony, as well as several of the lesser known, low cost house brands. Just like the computer laptop makers have, the TV industry is also expected to move towards LED backlights which will provide additional savings.

Environmental Benefits - We will prevent the emission of just under 3 million tons per year of CO2, the main heat trapping pollutant responsible for global warming, once all TVs installed in California meet the Tier 2 efficiency levels.  In addition we will save as much power as that generated by a 500 MW power plant.