The California Energy Commission broke new ground by approving the first-in-the-nation energy efficiency standards for battery chargers Jan. 12. Once fully implemented, the standards would “save Californians $306 million a year in reduced utility bills, reduce peak load by 300 MW and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a million metric tons annually,” said Michael Leaon, the commission’s Appliances and Process Energy Office manager. The new standards are expected to eliminate wasted energy by setting a limit on the total electricity consumed by battery chargers. “This is the sort of change we’re going to have to do to deal with the effects of climate change and other challenges we’ll be facing, and also just to reduce the costs for people of their energy services,” CEC chair Bob Weisenmiller said. Battery charger systems are used for cell phones, music players, laptop and tablet computers, power tools, electric toothbrushes, electric razors, and larger items such as golf carts and forklifts. According to the commission, the proliferation of these devices resulted in an estimated 170 million chargers in California households by 2009. It’s estimated an average home has about 11 chargers. Under the new standards, battery chargers for newly-manufactured consumer products, like cellular phones and power tools, must be more efficient beginning Feb. 1, 2013. Standards for industrial products like forklifts go into effect Jan. 1, 2014. Compliance for small commercial chargers used on devices like two-way radios and portable barcode scanners, take effect Jan.1, 2017. Manufacturers’ cost in implementing the standards in new devices is expected to be passed on to consumers, but the Energy Commission maintains that the increase would only be in the short-term, and that the price hikes would be offset by the corresponding energy savings. As an example, the commission estimates that if the cost of a laptop computer rises by 50 cents, that over its lifespan, that same laptop could yield $9 in electricity savings. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Power Sources Manufacturers Association support the new rules. Despite their wide-ranging scope, there are exceptions to the new standards: they don’t apply to highway plug-in electric vehicles or to federal Food & Drug Administration-approved life-sustaining equipment, like that found in hospitals. In other news, the commission’s bare quorum of three (see Current Jan. 6, 2012) voted unanimously to adopt numerous changes to the state’s New Solar Homes Partnership Guidebook. The partnership is part of the statewide California Solar Initiative program. It provides financial incentives for installing solar energy systems on new residential buildings. Among the guidebook changes approved by the commission are requiring projects applying for certain incentives to submit build-out schedules with their applications and requiring projects approved for certain incentives to submit updates on construction and system installation progress 18 months after the reservation approval. Commission staff says the progress update would be used to evaluate the progress of the project, and that depending upon its progress, the funding reservation for it could be reduced or cancelled.