The following post is by Earl Killian, guest blogger at Climate Progress.

The California Energy Commission is considering a proposal by PG&E to require televisions sold in the state to meet a minimum efficiency standard. Why is a utility proposing its customers by more efficient appliances? Because California allows utilities to earn a return on investment from negawatts.

PG&E’s proposal begins by plotting the power consumption (in Watts) of existing TVs against screen size and finding a linear fit. They then look at the most efficient (least power consumption) at a given size, and propose a cut-off formula based on screen size:

Native Vertical Resolution Tier 1: Effective 2011 Tier 2: Effective 2013
≤480 (i.e. non-HD) PMAX = 0.12*A + 25 PMAX = 0.12*A + 25
>480 (i.e. HD) PMAX = 0.20*A + 32 PMAX = 0.12*A + 25

California has kept its per-capita power consumption flat since the late 1970s. Appliance efficiency standards (Title 20) have been one component of its tactics.


The expected power savings are large. Today’s average 38-inch LCD draws 175W, but this would fall to 125W in 2011, and 103W in 2013. (125W would be low enough that you could power your TV with a Pedal-A-Watt.) Statewide the savings are significant:

  For First-Year Sales After Entire Stock Turnover
Scenario Coincident Peak Demand Reduction (MW) Annual Energy Savings (GWh/yr)
Coincident Peak Demand Reduction (MW)
Annual Energy Savings (GWh/yr)
Tier 1 33 349 362 3,831
Tier 2 23 243 253 2,684
Tier 1 and 2 combined 56 593 615 6,516

The Consumer Electronics Association has submitted a counter-proposal to the CEC. They would substitute labeling and an educational campaign for efficiency standards.

This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.