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California approves efficiency mandate for TVs

The California Energy Commission approves a measure to ratchet down power consumption of televisions sold in the state starting in 2011.

The California Energy Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved the first energy efficiency standards for televisions in the state over opposition from the Consumer Electronics Association.

The rules mandate that televisions sold in California starting in 2011 consume 33 percent less electricity than current models and 49 percent less by 2013. The regulationsaffect TVs that are 58 inches wide and less.

Video: In this episode of The Green Show, CNET's David
Katzmaier explains the factors that affect TV power use. (He's
introduced at about 1:38 minutes in.)

Although it's a state-level regulation, it is potentially significant outside California as other states are considering adopting similar rules. Unlike voluntary programs, such as the Environmental Protection Agency's EnergyStar program, the rules mandate certain levels of efficiency. For example, a 42-inch TV that consumes 183 watts or less by 2011 needs to consume 115 watts or less by 2013, the Commission explained in its statement.

The effort to regulate television efficiency, which was backed by California utilities and environmental groups, will save money for consumers on electricity and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, say backers. After 10 years, the energy savings will be $8.1 billion, or enough to power 864,000 single-family homes, according to the California Energy Commission.

The Consumer Electronics Association has fiercely opposed the mandate, which has been under development since early 2007. The industry group submitted a statement arguing that efficiency gains should be done through voluntary efforts by manufacturers and more consumer education. (Click for PDF of submission to the CEC.)

At the same time, some television manufacturers and the LCD TV Association supported the measure.

As consumers upgrade to flat-screen TVs, there's a concern that there will be a significant increase in aggregate power usage, in part because people are buying TVs with bigger screens. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that implementing the efficiency rules will cut the state's electricity use by almost 1 percent and mean that a 500-megawatt power plant will not need to be built to meet rising demand for power. (Click for Q&A from NRDC).

The California Energy Commission has energy efficiency mandates for a number of household appliances, such as refrigerators. The state's energy efficiency policies have kept the per capita energy consumption steady since the 1970s, according to the Commission.