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Utilities back California TV efficiency standards

The California Energy Commission holds a public hearing on a measure, opposed by some TV manufacturers, to limit power consumption on flat-screen TVs starting in 2011.

The California Energy Commission on Tuesday received the endorsement from utilities at a public hearing on television efficiency rules, a set of standards which could have national impact.

The Commission has proposed a set of rules that set efficiency levels for televisions in two phases, the first starting at the beginning of 2011 and then becoming more stringent in 2013. The power consumption limits are based on screen size.

Officials from the California Energy Commission listed a number of technologies, including LED back lights and ambient light control sensors, which they said will allow the television industry to meet the standards.

During the hearing, representatives from California utilities voiced their support for the proposal which is expected to be voted on next month.

Among them was a representative from Sempra who read a statement saying the more stringent power consumption levels are feasible, cost effective, and critical for meeting the state's environmental goals. By implementing the standards, the state could save $8.1 billion a year in electricity bills and avoid building a 500-megawatt power plant to meet growing electricity use, he said.

TV efficiency regulations, which already cover other household appliances, are needed because electricity consumption from televisions has climbed from about three percent in the 1990s to eight percent in 2008 in the state, according to the Commission.

A number of environmental advocacy groups, including the National Resource Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund, back the initiative.

But the rule proposals have been opposed by the industry group the Consumer Electronics Association. The CEA has argued that the Cmandates are unnecessary because products are already becoming more efficient and the voluntary EnergyStar program already exists.

Speaking in advance of Tuesday's public hearing, executives from Panasonic echoed that view, saying that the California Energy Commission's proposed rules are "an answer in search of a problem."

Panasonic, which is a large seller of plasma flat-screen televisions, said it has been able to improve efficiency by 30 percent every year. Meeting the EnergyStar 4.0 standard, which goes into effect next May, is more challenging but Panasonic is adopting a number of techniques in an effort to attain the EnergyStar 4.0 and 5.0 certifications, executives said.

Although the California Energy Commission is proposing to regulate efficiency for televisions only sold in its state, passage of the rules would likely have a broader effect. Others states, including Massachusetts, are also considering efficiency mandates for televisions which would be the same or similar to California.