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California to set TV energy efficiency standards

There are no national energy efficiency standards for power-hungry consumer electronics but California plans to set TV efficiency standards starting in 2011.

When it comes to energy efficiency, will TVs go the way of refrigerators?

The California Energy Commission on Friday published a proposal to set efficiency standards for televisions, which are fast becoming one of the biggest energy consumers in homes.

The regulations mandate that retailers carry TVs with 33 percent lower energy consumption ratings starting in 2011, followed by more stringent levels in 2013. The policy, which is expected to be approved by the Energy Commission in November, will save households about $30 a year and the state $8.1 billion.

The move is significant because California's efficiency policies have been able to ratchet down household energy consumption without sacrificing product features in the past. An often-cited example is that tough energy efficiency codes on refrigerators in the state have helped keep per capita electricity consumption steady since the 1970s, even though electricity use from other appliances keeps rising.

With so many consumers buying new flat-screen TVs, households are taking on a significant new energy "load" which can be as much as a refrigerator. The growing use of consumer electronics overall--game consoles, cell phones, set-top boxes, and the like--means that these devices already represent 15 percent of people's electricity bills, according to the International Energy Agency.

The Consumer Electronics Association is opposed to the California Energy Commission's TV standards, the industry group said in a statement on Friday. The CEA said that it is better to rely on consumer demand to drive innovation in energy efficiency rather than regulations.

An article in The New York Times on Sunday pointed out that there are efficiency standards in home appliances such as refrigerators, but manufacturers have derailed previous efforts to set efficiency standards in consumer electronics.

See CNET's energy-efficient guide for TVs here.