California Seeks Input on Appliance Efficiency Standards

The California Energy Commission is gathering information from stakeholders in the electronics and appliance industries as it considers establishing improved energy efficiency standards for a raft of products.

The Invitation to Participate is seeking market data from manufacturers, consumer rights groups, utility companies, energy efficiency advocates, industry associations, and other interested parties to use toward the establishment of efficiency measures for 15 products in four categories: consumer electronics, lighting, water appliances, and other appliances.

Products included in the project include computers; displays; game consoles; set-top cable boxes; fluorescent dimming ballasts; light-emitting diodes; multifaceted reflector lamps; faucets; toilets; urinals; water meters; commercial clothes dryers; air filters; residential pool pumps and motors; and portable electric spas.

An increase in plug load consumption is one of the reasons why the Commission is now considering efficiency standards. Energy use from devices that plug into wall outlets represents the fastest growing segment of residential and commercial utility bills in California. The Energy Information Administration’s 2011 Annual Energy Outlook projects plug loads to increase 60 percent from 2010 to 2030, dwarfing traditional categories like lighting and HVAC, the Commissions says. However, the upfront costs to make existing appliances more efficient are quickly offset by savings in utility bills. For example, an increase of 50 cents to a laptop computer would save $9 in electricity over the life of the device – an 18-to-1 return on the investment, the Commission says. Such standards also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy waste, the Commission argues.

Enacted in 1978, the standards for refrigerators are a good example of the benefits of adopting energy efficiency measures, according to the Commission. Today’s modern refrigerator is larger, costs less than models from 30 years ago, has more convenient amenities, yet only consumes 25 percent of the energy of older models, the Commission says. Since 1978, energy efficiency standards have saved California ratepayers $74 billion in electricity costs, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and have protected California’s environment, the Commission says.

In December last year, the US House of Representatives passed the American Energy Manufacturing Technical Corrections Act (H.R. 6582), which made a number of technical corrections to equipment efficiency standards previously enacted by Congress, helping to make the program function better. The act aims to ease federal regulations on the manufacture of walk-in coolers, water heaters and other appliances, according to The Hill.

Analysis released by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy in February found that the delays for eight overdue standards related to appliances will result in about 40 million metric tons of excess carbon dioxide emissions and has, to date, cost consumers and businesses about $3.7 billion.

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