Bill that would avoid 7 million tons CO2 emissions and save Californians $2.5 billion annually clears first hurdle in California state assembly

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California Assembly Bill 2529 (AB 2529) authored by Assembly Member Das Williams and sponsored by NRDC cleared the Assembly Utilities and Commerce committee in Sacramento on Monday, April 21.

The bill proposes to set a statewide goal to reduce the energy consumption of plug-in equipment in California homes and businesses. Plug-in equipment covers all the appliances and devices that plug into wall outlets in our homes, offices and other commercial buildings. They include kitchen appliances (such as fridges, ranges, and coffee makers), laundry and cleaning appliances, electronic devices (such as TVs, computers and audio), power tools, electric spas, data center equipment, etc.

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Most individual devices may not use a huge amount of energy, but plug-in equipment is proliferating, with over 30 plug-in devices per home, on average, and still increasing. Collectively, plug-in equipment is responsible for over half of the electricity consumption in our homes and a substantial share in commercial buildings.

AB 2529 proposes targets of 25 percent reduction per household and 40 percent reduction per square foot of commercial space by 2030 from 2014 levels. These targets are set at an aggregate level, like California’s Global Warming law AB 32. They will not  affect people’s ability to buy new devices and use them as they desire. Instead, the bill will ensure that manufacturers design new devices to waste less energy, saving consumers money in the form of lower electricity bills, and helping the state reduce its dependency on fossil fuel-based power generation which is causing climate change.

“Energy efficiency is a cost-effective way to address ever-increasing energy consumption and, ultimately, helps the environment by reducing the demand for electricity generated by power plants. As technology continues to evolve, it is important that energy efficiency performance metrics be a priority” says Assembly Member Williams.

An increasing number of appliances and devices now feature electronic controls like washers and dryers, which, if poorly designed, draw significant amounts of power 24/7. Many of these devices also increasingly remain connected to the network all the time, downloading information in the background at higher levels of power than necessary. Network connectivity may help with energy efficiency in the future by allowing energy reporting and control when integrated in emerging home energy management systems. However, if not designed with energy efficiency in mind, they can end up consuming substantial amounts of energy over time, like Microsoft’s Xbox One, which uses 15 watts 24/7 just to be connected to the network and listen to voice commands even in the middle of the night or when no one is home.

The electronics industry has made tremendous progress on energy efficiency over the past decade: the latest cell phones have more processing power than a standard laptop 10 years ago, at a lower price, and using a fraction of the energy! Unfortunately, mobile efficiency techniques are not broadly implemented on stationary devices, from washers and dryers to game consoles and audio equipment, because contrary to mobile devices, there is no market incentive to maximize battery life. Other large cost-effective opportunities for energy savings include: clothes dryers (such as heat-pump technology), fridges, computers and monitors, small and medium data centers, and many others.

AB 2529 would send a strong policy signal and would mobilize industry, electric utilities, and state agencies to fix this issue through a combination of utility rebate and incentive programs, appliance efficiency standards, and voluntary industry initiatives.

The California Energy Commission (CEC) and the utilities have already been working on this issue through appliance efficiency standards and incentive programs, and NRDC strongly supports these efforts; however, at the current pace of progress, plug-in equipment would still require an additional three power plants worth of electricity by 2030. In fact, current trajectory for standards and incentive programs would only address approximately 30 percent of the cost-effective savings potential in this category. This level of ambition is not in line with that of other clean energy policies in California. AB 2529 proposes that the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the Public Utility Commission (CPUC) be charged to create and manage a strategic roadmap and a detailed implementation plan to more fully capture this energy savings opportunity.

The potential benefits are large: energy efficiency is the cheapest way to reduce CO2 emissions, and this bill alone would result in an estimated 7 million tons CO2 emission reduction by 2030, a substantial contribution to AB 32 goals. In addition, the bill will have major economic benefits: low-power technologies that are necessary to make plug-in equipment more efficient are largely invented and developed by California’s tech industry. Accelerating energy efficiency on these devices will enhance market opportunities for companies in the Golden State, supporting local jobs and economic growth.

AB 2529 is smart energy policy. Please help it pass by asking your state elected representatives to vote “Aye” when the bill comes before them!