the Consumer Electronics Association (“CEA”)

Update on Proposed California Efficiency Standards for TVs: Given the Efficiency of our Market System, Does Consumer Demand for Green Technology Make this Regulation Unnecessary?

Several months ago, the California Energy Commission made big news by announcing that it was considering new energy efficiency standards for televisions. California’s current regulations only apply when a television is in “stand-by” mode and limit and limit such stand-by power usage to 3.0 watts. The current rules also only apply to stand-alone TVs designed to receive broadcast signals, and do not apply to combination TV/DVD or VCR units or computer monitors.

Pacific Gas & ElectricThe proposed rules were based on recommendations from Pacific Gas & Electric, a large California utility. The proposed rules would regulate TVs in both their stand-by and “on” modes and would apply to combination as well as stand-alone TVs. They would not cover computer monitors — a significant exception given the increasing encroachment of computer monitors into the entertainment space. The new rules would require significantly recued power usage: In stand-by mode, power usage would be limited to 1.0 watts. In “on-mode”, power usage limits would be based on screen size — ultimately based on the following formula: [{0.12 watts x the screen area (in square inches)} + 25 watts].

Immediately after the new proposed rules were announced, the major consumer electronics players, such as the Consumer Electronics Association (“CEA”) cried foul. The typical objection was that the new rules would primarily impact larger-sized and more richly-featured LCD and plasma TVs. Because these sets carry higher profit margins, the new rules could have a devastating impact on TV manufacturers and installers.

The California Energy Commission, which planned to move slowly on these regulations, has continued to seek and accept public comment. One such submission, from the CEA, which was recently released by the Commission on June 12, 2009, suggests that the CEA intends to mount a court challenge if the Commission moves forward with the proposed standards.