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Your TV should not be a couch potato too

By Climate Guest Contributor

"Your TV should not be a couch potato too"


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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 (see Energy efficiency, Part 4).

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.

–Earl K.

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27 Responses to Your TV should not be a couch potato too

  1. hapa says:

    poor plasma. poor, poor plasma. we hardly knew ya.

  2. copper potts says:

    Aren’t OLEDs going to start to be used in screens to drastically reduce power usage?

  3. charlesH says:

    CA and NY similar but Texas is much higher. This is mostly due to AC loads. If you have lived/visited in CA and Tx in the summer you know what I’m talking about.

    [EK: In California AC is 6.7% of electricity consumption, or approximately 470 kWh/person/year. Adjusting by the ratio of the annual cooling degree days for TX vs. CA, this gives 1380 kWh/person/year. The 910 kWh/person/year difference is a small part of the 7546 kWh/person/year extra that TX uses over CA.]

  4. Bob Wallace says:

    AC might be part of the reason. But remember that lots of CA gets quite hot in the summer as well. (Try walking around Bakersfield on a summer day.)

    CA has been very aggressive about cutting energy demand. Don’t sell their efforts short.

  5. charlesH, my first thought was A/C also. But EIA says nationwide 2/3 of household use is appliances and lighting and only about 16% is A/C. http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/recs/recs2001/enduse2001/enduse2001.html
    That doesn’t leave much room for A/C to explain the whole difference between CA/NY and TX.
    Joe, the NY performance is even more startling than the CA because NY absolutely plateaued in 1975. Why? How?

  6. Earl Killian says:

    Roger, it looks to me like CA plateaued, not NY. Are you misreading the graph? Please note that Reagan signed California’s Warren-Alquist bill in May 1974, which was essentially the start of California’s efforts to attach energy use with efficiency.

  7. Earl Killian says:

    charlesH, in addition to the comment above, please note that the CEC could have gotten a similar result using a state other than Texas with a similar number of cooling degree days (CDD) to California. For example, Iowa has 837 CDD, compared to California’s 905 CDD. Iowa has slightly less need of AC, and yet in 2005 Iowa used 14,418 kWh per capita vs. California’s 7,032. Virginia had 1049 CDD and used 14,390 per capita. Minnesota has only 483 CDD, but used 12,877 kWh per capita. AC does not explain what is happening.

  8. Mauri Pelto says:

    Earl as a glaciologist, I guess I just cannot read the TV power numbers clearly. Can you break it down for the same size screen what is the power usage for the various types of TV’s. And which does the new law than favor.

    [EK: Please see if Figures 3 and 4 on pages 11 and 12 of http://www.energy.ca.gov/appliances/2008rulemaking/documents/2008-07-16_workshop/proposals/PGE_Revised_Television_Proposal.pdf answer your question.]

  9. charlesH says:

    Forget CA for the moment. How does one explain TX vs NY?

    I suspect NY is mostly oil/gas heating and small AC.

    TX is high AC and a lot of heat pump heating.

    [JR: NY has an aggressive efficiency effort, also.]

  10. Rick C says:


    You’re absolutely right on when it comes to A/C. Here in Texas we turn on the A/C around the beginning of May and it remains on ’till the end of September but given the fact we don’t get our first chilling cold front in the 3rd week of September anymore it stays on until the middle of October or, sometimes, even the end of October. The bills are high as a result even though we set our A/C to 81 ºF or 82 ºF. I would love to put in a geothermal heat pump but I don’t know if it’s legal in Houston because of all the gas pipelines crisscrossing the city.

  11. charlesH says:

    The hypothesis that TX is usage is dominated by heating/cooling (weather related) is supported by the relatively wide variation year to year.

    The smooth lines for NY indicate usage unrelated to weather variations (e.g. lights, appliances etc).

    What else could it be?

    [EK: Please read the presentation from which the graph was taken. That should give you an idea of what else it could be. http://www.energy.ca.gov/2005publications/CEC-999-2005-003/CEC-999-2005-003.PDF ]

  12. Thanks, Earl. I misread the graph. I’m gonna guess Reagan signed the bill in May 1974 (not 2004).

    [EK: Oops, my mistake. I'll fix it.]

  13. hapa says:

    other possible differences between NY & CA:

    CA: widespread use of natural gas for stoves and ovens
    NY: electric space heat and water heat
    NY: longer hours for electric lighting (latitude)
    NY: older buildings means older wiring, pipes, ducts
    NY: far greater electric load for transportation

  14. hapa says:

    also, because of how the state lines come to a point right at the metropolis, a bunch of new york’s industrial and residential infrastructure is in NJ, PA, CT. to a lesser extent there is bleed over the line from buffalo.

    regional measurements should be used instead of NY state alone.

  15. Bob Wallace says:

    Interesting thing about this string of posts….

    They seem more about explaining away CA’s and NY’s success in holding down energy demand growth than about wondering about what has worked and how the rest of the country might fix their over consumption problem.

    It’s something like the idea that the US doesn’t need to start working on its greenhouse gas problems until China and India lead the way.

    Can you say “Not taking responsibility”?

  16. charlesH says:



    Data is per customer not per person (per capita)

    2006 kwhr / month

    TX 1161
    AL 1302

    OR 1003 (heat pumps)
    WA 1061 (heat pumps)

    NY 591
    CA 590
    ME 529
    HI 660
    MI 671
    AK 676 (can’t afford AC)

    Highest usage in the south/southeast. Lowest in Northern and west coast. Or and WA use heat pumps.

    [JR: WAY too simplistic, sorry. You've left out efficiency efforts and many, many other factors.]

  17. hapa says:

    you don’t think the successes and methods of achieving them are well-enough documented?

    but to my thinking there HAVE been offsets. maybe they’re not big but i’ve never seen them addressed. we need to be talking about energy use per sector per person, not fuel use per person, to get an accurate picture. “reducing grid burden” isn’t the same as “conservation.”

  18. charlesH says:


    My observation is that we need to find ways to keep energy prices low so that the good people of AK (and the 3rd world) can afford AC.

    Energy efficiency certainly is a part of that goal. High efficiency low cost air conditioners would certainly be welcome to the poor of this world.

  19. Earl Killian says:

    charlesH, one can come up with lots of correlations. For example I saw a presentation (no longer on the internet) where the graph had “red states” and “blue states” plotted. However, there is a correlation of red states with southern states, so this does not tell you whether something is cause or effect. I recommend you read the CEC’s presentation, since they do attribute the success in California to various causes.

  20. One big difference between TX and NY is apartments. In a macMansion, you are losing/gaining heat on all six sides of the cube. In an apartment, you are gaining back roughly equal amounts from your neighbors on as many as five sides.

  21. Earl Killian says:

    I would encourage those that want to speculate on factors affecting electricity usage to start from some data. Roger Chittum posted a good starting point, a breakdown of residential electricity use: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/recs/recs2001/enduse2001/enduse2001.html
    (Thank you Roger!)

    Please remember that the plural of anecdote is not data.

    What I find interesting is that many posters just assume that the efforts of California’s regulatory agencies cannot have played a part in the result. It is possible for government to function correctly.

  22. charlesH says:

    I’m sure there are many factors that affect electricity use per customer.

    I can think of:

    heat source (heat pump vs burning FF)
    house hold income (the poor use less of everything)
    dwelling size
    electricity cost
    government effects to encourage conservation (e.g. cfl promotion, building codes)

  23. red says:

    Without investigating it or reading the underlying articles, I find differences like income, house size, government regulations, and so on to all be credible factors. Your per-capita energy use is likely to be a lot less in a NYC apartment building with 700 sq units than in a Texas suburb. However, when looking at the differences in the graph. California, Texas, and the U.S. average all start at about the same place in 1960, and diverge from there. Some of the factors that have been called out in the comments wouldn’t have changed much in that time, and others would. I’d tend to attribute the divergence to the factors that changed.

  24. Bob Wallace says:

    Let’s see, the factors that changed….

    CA instituted building standards that reduced overall energy use.

    Other states didn’t.

    CA gave incentives to utility companies to “sell” conservation. Incentives to junk inefficient appliances and switch to CFLs, among other things, followed.

    Other states didn’t.

    CA created a support system for installing solar on residences and commercial buildings.

    Other states didn’t.

    CA engaged in consumer education to promote energy efficiency.

    Other states didn’t.

    I’m willing to attribute a great deal of the divergence to those factors.

  25. Tim Brown says:

    The thing that struck me right away about the Texas California convergence was the use of air conditioning. I think that Texas’ oil boom combined with baby boomers wanting to move to a dry warm climate for the winters also increases electricity use.

    Given Florida’s hurricane risks and the risk/fact of salinization of Florida’s water supply, I expect that Texas will end up with lots of Canadian Snow birds that divert their travels from Florida.

    I appreciate Bob Wallace’s point about congratulating and learning from California’s experiences.

    Back to the TV point of the article, I am looking forward to getting a pedal power generator for my laptop…once I get the student debt under control.

  26. Bob Wallace says:

    Actually it’s a Texas California *divergence*.

    California has experienced very large population growth in some of its hottest areas (the Central Valleys, Inland Empire, desert areas east of LA and San Diego). And with that growth in places where aircon is almost a necessity they have managed to hold energy growth flat.

    Add in all the computers and other “gadgets” that have appeared in the last few years and are supposedly gobbling up tremendous amounts of energy but haven’t increased average CA usage and one has to ask why are other states putting up with this waste?

    It suggests to me that we could conserve our way around building new power plants and start using output from renewables that is coming on line to replace our most expensive and polluting fossil fuel plants.

    It would be a net gain all around.

  27. Ronald says:

    To bad the graphs didn’t include the 2001-2003 time period in California where the state had a dysfunctional electrical supply pricing system that allowed much of the production to be keep off the market in order to raise supply prices. Residential consumers were able to use in some places 20 percent less electricity.