California began fighting the battle against global warming on a new front this month, with the California Energy Commission’s new regulation to reduce energy consumption of power-guzzling TVs.
In a 5-0 vote on Nov. 18, the commission set new energy efficiency standards for TVs sold in California to take effect on Jan. 1, 2011. Although the vote was unanimous, the regulation is opposed by the Consumer Electronics Association but lauded by power utilities.
For the first time in the nation, the standards require TVs to consume 33 percent less electricity by 2011 and 49 percent less by 2013.
These regulations apply only to TVs that are 58 inches and smaller. There are approximately 1,000 types of TVs currently on the market that meet these standards.
Consumers are expected to save $8.1 billion in electricity costs over a decade. Implementing these restrictions will eliminate the need to build a 500-megawatt power plant that would cost $600 million.
Flat screen liquid crystal display (LCD) and plasma TVs use a significant amount of energy. The large displays and high resolutions lead to high energy consumption. Increased TV viewing hours lead to greater energy deficits as well.
“TVs generate a lot of heat. They inefficiently turn electricity into heat,” said UC Davis electrical and computer engineering associate professor M. Saif Islam. “Turning electricity into light is a low cost technology, which makes displays look bright and beautiful, but you pay the cost in energy consumption,” Islam said.
Plasma TVs consume more energy than LCDs, therefore producing more heat. According to UC Davis electrical and computer engineering and design professor Charles Hunt, the process of producing plasma, or converting electrical energy to plasma, is energy inefficient.
“The phosphor produces the beautiful and dazzling picture,” Hunt said.
Hunt said his colleague uses his plasma TV he received as a gift to heat his living room during winter months.
The majority of large screen TVs are plasma. Most big LCDs are 37 to 45 inches, Hunt said.
“Transitioning to larger screens has been more complicated for LCDs,” Hunt said.
The new regulation will reduce greenhouse gas, or carbon dioxide, emissions by 3 million metric tons per year, according to Adam Gottlieb, the California Energy Commission’s media/communications manager.
“Californians buy four million TVs per year. California is a major market for TVs,” Gottlieb said.
Although this regulation will save energy, use less coal and emit less greenhouse gasses, drastic measures are necessary to address global warming, Hunt said.
There are a plethora of other energy-guzzling household devices with high efficiency replacements, such as heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators, electric water heaters and electric dryers, Hunt said.
“Go after the big fish, not minnows,” Hunt said.
The Consumer Electronics Association is concerned that the regulation will result in higher prices and hamper innovation.
“There is no correlation between price and energy efficiency,” Gottlieb responded.
He said the TVs sold in California in 2011 and 2013 will be the most energy efficient in the nation, with the same or better picture quality, at no additional cost.
The California Energy Commission pins the consumer as the ultimate winner as a result of this regulation. The money consumers save on electric bills can be redistributed into the economy, Gottlieb said.
The new TV standards are part of California’s Appliance Efficiency Regulations, implemented in the 1970s, which place similar restrictions on refrigerators, air conditioners and other household appliances.
“California’s electricity use per person has remained flat for the last 30 years, while the rest of the nation’s energy consumption has increased by 40 percent,” Gottlieb said.
THERESA MONGELLUZZO can be reached at email@example.com.