PG&E & SMUD Push for Electronics Efficiency Gains

By Published On: April 10, 2009

Pacific Gas & Electric and the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District are teaming with manufacturers and retailers to try to motivate customers to purchase energy efficient computers, TVs, monitors, and flat screens. Residential use of electronics is the fastest growing source of power usage in the state and country. The group wants to tap into consumers “pent up desire” to save energy and reap outstanding product performance, said Brian Cooley, CNET editor-at-large, during an April 9 press call with the utilities. Electronics represent about 18 percent of home energy use in California, said Brad Whitcomb, PG&E vice president of marketing. They make up about 8 percent of industrial use, he added. The energy consumption for consumer electronics is projected to increase 57 percent from 2005 to 2010--from 4,550 million kWh to 7,130 million kWh a year, according to PG&E. If Sacramento customers used far more efficient TVs, DVDs and telephones, the muni calculated it would see a 25 billion pound reduction in greenhouse gases and 36 GWh of savings by 2011. SMUD’s assistant general manager Paul Lau was referring to energy savings reached by universal use of Energy Star rated electronics in homes. The two utilities are focusing on efficiency gains on the manufacturing and retail end at first in their territories. Tighter efficiency standards are not being sought at this time. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency develops Energy Star requirements for appliances. For example, EPA announced Thursday that it set tighter efficiency rules for commercial refrigerators and freezers seeking the Energy Star label. Beginning in 2010, qualifying ice boxes must be 33 percent more efficient than current models, which would increase energy savings and carbon reductions. Two years ago, state legislation died that attempted to curb energy use by labeling electronic devices--from lap tops to cell phones--that draw low levels of power while plugged in even when not in use. According to former Assemblymember Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys) these “vampire” appliances cost consumers $3 billion annually--about $200 per household. The legislation was vigorously opposed by electronic manufacturers and retailers (Circuit, June 23, 2006)

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