Last month, the California Energy Commission ruled that all TVs sold in the Golden State must be one-third more energy efficient starting in 2011, and 50 percent more energy efficient two years after that. This is not a trivial matter. Plasma TVs use more energy than conventional cathode-ray tube models or liquid crystal displays.
In fact, it has been reported, “a 42-inch plasma set can consume more electricity than a full-size refrigerator.”
The California Energy Commission estimates that TVs account for nearly 10 percent of the state's residential energy use, and the new TV regulations “would save enough power to supply 864,000 single-family homes,” Marc Lifsher and Andrea Chang reported in the Los Angeles Times, “equivalent to the output of a 615-megawatt, gas-fired power plant, which would cost about $600 million to build.”
But wait, there's still more good news -- for the whole Northwest:
The council's modelers have found that we can supply 85 percent of the region's energy needs over the next 20 years with conservation and increased efficiency, and the remaining 15 percent with renewables. Over the next five years, it predicts that the region can meet 58 percent of new demand through increased efficiency. The plan envisions no new coal-fired plants, and no nukes.
But wait, what does this have to do with the efficiency of TV's in California?
That's where California's new TV regulation comes in. The Northwest represents way too small a market to drive technological innovation or force down prices. California, on the other hand, is big enough to push manufacturers in new directions. If California TVs have to use less energy, manufacturers will produce sets that meet the standards. Those same sets will be sold to consumers in the Northwest, where over time they'll help us meet future energy demands without new power plants.