The new standard is the result of a modification to the Energy Star specifications by the U.S. government. The Version 3.0 Energy Star TV products specification was finalized on February 4, 2008.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the new modifications are expected to prevent greenhouse gas emissions.
"Energy Star's new specifications for televisions are turning the channel on energy guzzling sets - making them go the way of rabbit-ears and the black and white TV," said EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson.
High definition TVs are on display in a store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Photo by John Sims courtesy LSU)
Some manufacturers are in favor of the stricter standard. Jon Fairhurst of Sharp Laboratories of America wrote in a January 18 letter to Katharine Kaplan of the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, "We believe that this new specification will help improve television power efficiency across the industry. Such action reduces greenhouse gas emissions, helps the environment and lowers costs for consumers."
But others have problems with the new standard, which they object is an "all-TVs-are-the-same’ approach" that does not distinguish among technology types.
Peter Fannon, Panasonic vice president for technology policy, government and regulation, wrote in a January 24 letter to Kaplan, "Our strongly preferred approach - as we and other commenters have recommended from the outset - would be to establish separate Energy Star classes by TV technology type."
"We are keenly disappointed that this Version 3.0 document still fails to differentiate among display technologies or to reflect the fact that different display technologies have dissimilar and distinct performance and energy consumption characteristics. Frankly, we believe this remains the primary shortcoming of the Draft Final specification," Fannon wrote.
"Consequently, and despite the consistent and near-universal use of separate product TV technology categories by manufacturers, retailers, consumer publications, and consumers themselves in their purchase determinations, the result of the ‘all-TVs-are-the-same’ approach in the Final Draft is a new program that promotes certain technologies at the expense of others," Fannon wrote.
Fannon says the EPA's approach gives undue weight to rear projection TV which is rapidly disappearing from the marketplace. "Unfortunately, we believe all these things could undercut, rather than propel, the important and substantial Energy Star brand," he writes.
The winner of the Energy Star Partner of the Year Award for five consecutive years, Panasonic produces over 445 Energy Star labeled products, more than any other manufacturer.
Still, the EPA did not change its approach in response to Fannon's comments.
The United States now has more than 275 million TVs in use; they consume over 50 billion kilowatt hours per year.
According to recent market research, North American shipments of new TVs will top 36 million units in 2008.
"These TVs will typically be larger, in use more hours a day, and offer more vibrant pictures and other great features than their predecessors. However, these enhancements can come with a hefty energy price tag," Johnson said.
After the new specifications go into effect, if all TVs sold in the United States met the Energy Star requirements, the savings in energy costs would grow to about $1 billion annually and greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by the equivalent of about one million cars.
Energy Star labeling was introduced by EPA in 1992 as a voluntary, market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency.
Today, the Energy Star label can be found on more than 50 different kinds of products as well as new homes and buildings.
TVs first earned the Energy Star label in 1998 and ever since, TV manufacturers and EPA have worked together on efficiency improvements.
Products that have earned the Energy Star designation prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy-efficiency specifications set by the U.S. government.
In 2006 alone, Americans choosing to purchase Energy Star products saved about $14 billion on their energy bills while reducing greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of 25 million vehicles, according to the EPA.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.