California Energy Commission Plugs in Energy Efficiency Rules for Battery-Charged Appliances

January 15, 2012 by Jeff Shepard

The California Energy Commission approved a first-in-the-nation energy efficiency standard that will reduce wasted energy by battery chargers commonly used to power cell phones, laptop computers, power tools, and other devices.

"When you consider powering California’s plugged-in lifestyle, these new efficiency standards will save consumers money and energy," said Energy Commission Chair Dr. Robert Weisenmiller. "The standards will reduce the wasted electricity from powering our day-to-day appliances by 40 percent and help California meet its strategic climate policy goals. Once again, California is setting the standard for energy efficiency, keeping the state’s dominance as the most energy efficient state per capita."

Battery chargers for both large and small appliances are composed of (1) a power supply (corded plug), (2) a battery, and (3) internal charging circuitry. Cell phones, digital cameras, cordless telephones, laptop and tablet computers, power tools, electric toothbrushes, electric razors, commercial barcode scanners, and larger items such as golf carts and forklifts all use battery charger systems.

There are an estimated 170 million chargers in California households, an average of 11 battery chargers per household. While many manufacturers produce energy efficient electronic devices, many products on the market lack efficient charging technology. The proposed standards can save nearly 2,200 gigawatt hours (GWh) each year – or enough energy to power nearly 350,000 homes or a city roughly the size of Bakersfield. Once fully implemented, California ratepayers will save more than $300 million annually and eliminate 1 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

Energy consumed to charge batteries is increasing in California. Because nearly two-thirds of the 8,000 GWh of electricity consumed in California by battery charger systems (or battery chargers) is wasted by inefficiency, the Energy Commission proposed appliance efficiency standards requiring battery chargers to consume less energy while providing the same performance.

As a result of the state’s forward-thinking, energy efficient building and appliance standards, California’s electricity consumption per capita has remained flat for the past 35 years compared to the rest of the nation, which has increased its energy consumption by at least 40 percent. Since 1976, energy efficiency standards for appliances alone have saved California ratepayers $36 billion dollars and 20,000 GWh.

Historically, California has been a leader on energy efficiency standards that become the basis for federal standards. The Energy Commission has approved energy saving standards for many household products, including: refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, heat clothes dryers, pumps, boilers, furnaces water heaters, lighting, and most recently, televisions.

The Energy Commission began working on these energy efficiency standards in April 2008. Since then, the Commission’s staff has collaborated with a variety of stakeholders including the state’s major utility companies, environmental organizations, manufacturing interests, and consumer groups in a public process to develop cost-effective and feasible regulations.

Supporters include: Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Gas Company, Southern California Edison, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Environment California, Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), Earth Justice, the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies (CEERT), NW Energy Coalition, Power Sources Manufacturers Association (PMSA), and the government of Australia.

Consumer chargers used in cell phones, personal care devices, and power tools will be required to comply with the new standards by February 1, 2013. Industrial charger compliance (e.g. forklifts) is required by January 1, 2014. Compliance for small commercial chargers (such as walkie talkies and portable barcode scanners) is required by January 1, 2017.

More news and information regarding the latest developments in Smart Grid electronics can be found at Darnell’s SmartGridElectronics.Net.