the film
Economic and dam related articles

California Energy Regulators Require More Efficient Appliances

by Don Thompson, Associated Press
San Diego Union-Tribune, December 16, 2004

SACRAMENTO -- California regulators are forcing manufacturers of household electronics such as TVs, DVD players and cell phone chargers to make their products more energy efficient under new rules that could spark a nationwide trend toward wattage-thrifty small appliances.

In a 5-0 Wednesday vote, the California Energy Commission approved standards to be phased in starting in 2006 that will require all televisions, videocassette recorders and DVD players sold in the state to run on a stingy one to three watts.

Even when idle, most models of such home entertainment devices currently use two to 10 watts.

Power adapters those little black boxes you push into the socket to power phones, razors, computer components and the like will be required to draw a half-watt or less. Left plugged in, many adapters become warm to the touch, a sign that they're wasting juice.

The average California household has 10 to 20 of the appliances nicknamed "energy vampires" which, according to estimates, cost consumers up to $75 a year in wasted electricity. The requirements will save commercial and residential users more than $3 billion over 15 years, the commission calculated.

Commissioners adopted the regulations after extensive negotiations with manufacturers in the U.S. and major supplier nations such as China and Australia, said commission spokesman Rob Schlichting. Manufacturers were granted delays in phasing in the requirements on some appliances, largely muting the opposition.

The standards will mean the state can avoid building the equivalent of three new power plants in the next decade, said Jackalyne Pfannenstiel, who chairs the commission's efficiency committee.

Put another way, once the standards are fully phased in by 2008, they'll save more electricity than is used by the 350,000-plus households in San Francisco, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, which promoted the regulations.

"Consumers don't have to sacrifice anything. The soda will still be cold from the vending machine, the swimming pool pump will still circulate the water," said Noah Horowitz, a scientist with the group. "We're substituting new, more efficient technologies ... rather than building new power plants."

Pacific Gas & Electric backed the regulations on behalf of the utility industry, citing the savings to consumers, the environment and the power supply.

Among the appliances affected: incandescent lamps; audio and video equipment; residential pool pumps and portable electric spas; evaporative coolers; ceiling fans, exhaust fans and whole house fans; commercial ice makers, refrigerators and freezers; vending machines; commercial hot food holding cabinets and water dispensers.

The federal government already has adopted energy efficiency standards for different appliances, including residential refrigerators, clothes washers and dishwashers; the new state regulations does not affect those.

California is the first state to impose the regulations; proponents hope the move will force others to follow suit, since California is the nation's most populous state and a crucial consumer market.

Related Sites:
California Energy Commission:

Statement by Noah Horowitz, Natural Resources Defense Council Senior Scientist

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Energy Commission (CEC) today unanimously approved new appliance efficiency standards that will save energy, cut consumers' power bills and reduce air pollution. The standards will cover new products sold in California in 24 categories, including consumer electronics, swimming pool pumps and external power supplies. Upon full turnover of existing appliances, the standards will save more than 5,000 gigawatt/hours of energy per year, more than the amount of electricity used by all San Francisco residences.

NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) played a leading role in developing the new standards. Following is a statement by NRDC Senior Scientist Noah Horowitz.

"Once again, California is leading the way. It continues to have the world's most stringent and comprehensive energy efficiency standards. The appliance standards approved today will accelerate the adoption of commonly available technologies to help consumers and businesses save money and to protect the environment.

"Through its aggressive energy saving policies, California's electricity demand is growing at half the rate of the rest of the nation. During the 1990s demand grew by about 1 percent per year, matching the state's population growth and lagging far behind the 2.8 percent average annual growth of the state's economy.

"California's leadership is especially important because the federal government has been asleep at the switch when it comes to setting minimum efficiency standards for new appliances. Fortunately, California standards often become future state and federal standards. NRDC is working to promote the adoption of many of California's new appliance standards in other states in the Northeast and Northwest."


The CEC approved the new appliance standards under its Title 20 code. The standards cover the sale of new products in California in 24 consumer and industrial product categories and have varying effective dates beginning on January 1, 2006. Upon full turnover of existing appliances, the state will reduce its peak power demand by about 1,000 megawatts, which is the equivalent of two large power plants. Full turnover also will result in reduced power plant emissions of the global warming pollutant carbon dioxide by about 2 million metric tons per year. That is equivalent to taking 320,000 cars off the road. According to CEC estimates, the regulations will save about $2 billion by 2020.

Some of the product categories that the standards will cover include:

External power supplies These are the little black boxes or "AC adapters" that are used in consumer and office electronics to convert incoming AC (alternating current) power from the outlet to the DC (direct current) power needed to operate the product. The standard will cover wide-ranging products such as cordless and cellular phones, laptop computers and iPods.

Swimming pool pumps The more than 1 million residential swimming pools in California collectively represent a sizable percentage of peak power use. Most installed pumps are relatively inefficient. The new standard will force a shift toward more efficient, two-speed pumps and the use of controls.

Consumer electronics products Devices like TVs, DVD players, VCRs and compact audio systems continue to draw power even when they are turned off (as long as they are still plugged in). The new standard will greatly reduce the amount of power used by these devices when they are in the standby mode.

Television set top boxes The new standard sets limits for the power used by digital-to-analog set top boxes, which will be needed in 2008 and beyond to convert digital signals for viewing on older TVs.

Commercial refrigeration Efficiency standards were updated for several product categories including walk-in refrigeration and freezers, reach-in refrigerators and ice makers.

Certain lighting products The new standards set efficiency levels for certain classes of light bulbs, including incandescent light bulbs.

NRDC was the lone environmental advocate to participate in the year long Title 20 proceeding. The organization provided key technical support for several of the product categories, including external power supplies, ceiling fans, beverage vending machines and set top boxes.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 1 million members and e-activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Santa Monica and San Francisco.

For more information contact: Craig Noble, 415-875-6103,

Don Thompson, Associated Press
California Energy Regulators Require More Efficient Appliances
San Diego Union-Tribune, December 16, 2004

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation