New Energy Efficiency Regulations for TVs Are Coming to California: Why You Should Be Concerned

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The California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission is in the process of considering new energy efficiency regulations for televisions which would require substantially increased energy efficiency. (fn1)

Current Standards

Proposed Standards

Under the proposed rules, which were largely based on recommendations from California’s utility ca_en_cat_tvs_feature_003industry, power usage would be limited to 1.0 watts in stand-by mode. Power usage in active mode would be based on screen size — ultimately based on the following formula: [{0.12 watts x the screen area (in square inches)} + 25 watts]. All TVs would be required to have a power factor of no more than 0.9. In addition, all TVs would be required to include a menu that forces a viewer to select the display mode each time the power is turned or to have automatic brightness controls. TVs would also have to include features placing the unit in stand-by mode when not in active use.

The proposed rules would begin to take effect after January 1, 2011 and would cover both stand-alone and combination TVs, but still exclude computer monitors. (fn3)

Expected Impact of the Proposed Standards

television_comparisonsA review of the product database for TVs on the commission website indicates that almost 18% of the models listed would not be compliant with the new standards for stand-by power. It is not surprising that the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has opposed the proposed rules, estimating that up to 30% of current TV models could not be sold under the new regulations. According to the CEA and the Plasma Display Coalition, the models that would be most greatly impacted by the proposed rules would be TVs with larger screen sizes and greater functionality — in other words, the units with the highest profit margins. (fn4)

On the other hand, some manufacturers of TVs and TV components had applauded the new rules. Vizio sent a letter to the commission in which it stated that it currently has LCD models that meet the proposed standards and that “there are significant efficient achievements on the near horizon” that could permit its plasma TVs to meet the new standards as well. (fn5)

At present, the rules are merely proposals. There are likely be at least 1-2 hearings with stakeholders, as well as at least one round of formal public hearings, before the Commission adopts final rules. However, the current economic and political climate makes it likely that tough, new rules will be adopted.

Compliance, Enforcement and Litigation Risk

AG-master1050Under Commission regulations, manufacturers of TVs and most other covered products must test their products for compliance with the Commission’s energy efficiency standards. (fn6) A manufacturer must also file a certificate of compliance with the Commission. The Commission places compliant products on a database that is published on its website. (fn7) According to Commission rules, only products that have been tested and that appear on the Commission database may be sold or offered for sale in California. (fn8)

It should be noted that the Commission has limited enforcement capabilities. The sole enforcement televisions_400x265power granted to the Commission by statute is the power to seek an injunction, where a violation requires “immediate action to protect the public health, welfare, or safety.” (fn9) The Commission has not brought such an enforcement action in recent memory. The Commission also has no inspection force to ensure that its rules are being complied with.

While the Commission may pose a limited direct threat, many manufacturing and vendor agreements contain clauses requiring suppliers to comply with all applicable laws. A non-compliant supplier could also be subject to suits by private individuals under California’s Unfair Competition law — which, inter alia, could subject it remedies such as to disgorgement of profits earned from the sale of non-compliant goods. (fn10)

Conclusion

Given the current economic and political climate, manufacturers of TVs and other appliances can expect increasing demands for energy efficient products from state and federal regulators.