California plan would put squeeze on big-screen, flat-panel TVs

A proposal from the California Energy Commission would restrict power usage of televisions sold in the state, but the Consumer Electronics Association contends the move would cut sales tax revenue and eliminate thousands of jobs

The California Energy Commission is considering a proposal to prohibit retailers in the state from selling all but the most energy-efficient televisions.

A draft report prepared by the state agency’s staff warns that without the action, the demand for electricity throughout the state will continue to grow as consumers purchase larger flat-screen televisions to replace their existing analog sets. Currently, the electricity consumed by Californians to power their televisions, recording devices and other connected peripherals accounts for 10 percent of the state’s total residential power consumption, the report said.

The proposal would establish a two-tier power consumption standard. The standard would become effective Jan. 1, 2011, and cut energy use for televisions by an average of 33 percent. The second tier of the plan would begin in 2013, and, when added to the first, would reduce power consumption by an average of 49 percent, according to the state commission.

The Consumer Electronics Association objects to the plan, saying it will reduce state sales tax collections by $50 million and reduce California jobs by 4600. The association April 2 released a study, conducted by consulting firm Resolution Economics, analyzing the impact of the plan.

According to the analysis, if the proposal were to be adopted, consumers would go online to find the TV models they desire, sidestepping retailers forced to remove non-compliant televisions from stock as well as reducing state sales tax receipts and retail jobs.

Pointing to the second tier standard, the analysis contends televisions that have proven to be popular among consumers will become unavailable. In particular, LCD TVs ranging from 30 to 34in saw a 70 percent increase in sales last year. However, 83 percent of LCD TVs between 24 and 34in meeting the existing ENERGY STAR specification would be eliminated by the 2013 standard. Furthermore, 80 percent of current 35 to 39in LCD televisions and all current plasma TVs larger than 60in would be eliminated by the 2011 standard, according to the analysis.

However, the California regulator’s Web site claims that the proposal’s energy savings would be significant. Once existing stock of televisions is sold, the 2011 standard would save 3831GWh, and the 2013 standard would save an additional 2684GWh — a total of 6515GWh, enough to power 864,000 single-family homes for a year.

The CEA counters that the voluntary ENERGY STAR program in 2007 produced energy savings from all electronics, including televisions, of more than 23 billion kilowatt hours of electricity — enough to power San Francisco and San Diego counties.