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Energy limits imposed on Calif. televisions

November 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
California is getting tough on televisions. State regulators just passed some of the strictest energy guidelines for big-screen TVs, the first of their kind in the nation. The decision may be bad for some businesses but good for the state's power grid.With that unanimous vote, California adopted the country's first energy mandate for televisions.

All TVs up to 58 inches sold in California beginning in 2011, must use one-third less energy. In 2013, 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 produced have to meet basic standards," said California Energy 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.

"This will save Californians close to a billion dollars 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, senior scientist with 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.

Industry spokespeople called Wednesday's vote bad policy that's dangerous for the California economy, dangerous for technology innovation and dangerous for consumer freedom. They also point out that retailers can use every dollar they can get in this recession.

The Energy Commission says more than three-quarters of all televisions sold today already comply with the 2011 standards. That's more than 1000 models.

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

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

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


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