California Proposes Plan to Ban Sale of High-Energy TVs

September 22, 2009

via Time Magazine

California has 35 million television sets — one for nearly every man, woman and child — and television use in the Golden State accounts for 10% of each home’s energy bill. Alarmed that state energy consumption would spike as consumers switch from the old cathode-ray-tube sets to the new, energy-gobbling flat screen liquid-crystal display (LCD) or plasma televisions, the state’s regulatory mavens have formally proposed regulations that would force the industry to make more energy-efficient models.

The Consumer Electronics Association argues the proposed regulations will result in a loss of sales and jobs. “We think this is the wrong paradigm to actually achieve energy efficiency,” said Doug Johnson, senior director for technology policy for the industry association. “The commission is carelessly rushing its own plan which is flawed and unworkable without considering alternative approaches to reduce energy consumption.” The association favors the voluntary federal Energy Star program, which rewards manufacturers that meet efficiency goals with prominent labeling on their products, but doesn’t penalize those that don’t.Following a 45-day public comment period and a vote by the powerful California Energy Commission in November, the first-in-the-nation TV efficiency standards would go into effect in January 2011 and would require televisions sold in California to use 50% less energy by January 2013. Strict-target limits on greenhouse gas emissions for 2020 are propelling policymakers to cut consumption of energy and increase renewable generation.See the Top 10 Green Ideas of 2008.

But a number of manufacturers support the proposal. “We are continuing to look for ways to reduce the energy needs of our products,” said Kenneth R. Lowe, vice president and co-founder of Vizio, a leading LCD manufacturer based in Southern California. “We think the regulations will be good for the environment and good for the consumer.” Lowe notes that the new 4.0 Energy Star program, set to begin in May 2010, is very similar to the regulations proposed by California for January 2011. All of Vizio’s models will be 4.0 Energy Star compliant, he says. And hundreds of industry models already meet the energy efficiency standards proposed by California, including new super-efficient LCD televisions, sized 50 inches and larger, from Sharp and Samsung.

The challenge for California — and the nation — is that two-thirds of the televisions in use are the old-fashioned but energy efficient cathode-ray-tube (CRT) sets, no longer being manufactured. In California, 4 million new sets fly off the shelves annually. LCD screens now dominate the market. (Plasma televisions, which use approximately 32% more energy than LCD sets, have dropped to 5% market share.) In 2007, LCD televisions surpassed CRT-based televisions worldwide for the first time.

As these older models are replaced by flat screen televisions that are “less efficient per inch and have much larger screens,” says David Johnson, a Los Angeles attorney specializing in the electronics industry and digital media, “you could easily see a doubling of energy consumption. That is the impetus behind these regulations. Most industry people think they will be adopted.” The state’s Energy Commission reports that the voluntary Energy Star program would “only obtain 27% of the calculated $8.1 billion in potential energy savings for consumers” that would result from the proposed standards.

The proposed regulations are “designed to be cost effective for the consumer over the life of the appliance,” says Energy Commission spokesperson Susanne Garfield. The Commission expects California consumers to save between $50 and $250 in electricity costs over the life of the new televisions, and collectively save homeowners nearly $1 billion once the 2013 rules are fully implemented.

California has a record of aggressive conservation standards that have paid off. Despite an increase in population and more appliances consuming power in homes and businesses, per capita energy consumption in California has remained flat for the past 30 years. The energy efficiency campaign began in 1975 with refrigerators; today, says Garfield, there are more, larger models and they use approximately one-quarter of the energy as before. California’s per capita electricity consumption has remained constant at approximately 7,000 kilowatt-hours while the rest of the United States has increased 40 percent or roughly 12,000 kilowatt-hours per person.

Economists at the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a model that shows if California improves energy efficiency by just 1 percent per year, the state’s climate policies will increase the gross state product by approximately $76 billion, increasing real household incomes by up to $48 billion and create as many as 403,000 new jobs.

The proposed regulations only apply to televisions up to 58 inches. In a concession to critics during a yearlong process of developing the regulations, the Commission’s staff decided not to regulate the super screen television entertainment units that are primarily an industry of small entrepreneurs.

“That’s a good thing,” said Leon SooHoo, owner of Paradyme Sound and Vision in Sacramento. “Previously, they did not have that exemption.” SooHoo believes the regulations are overkill because manufacturers are already moving aggressively on energy efficiency.

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Texas Utility Chooses Control4 for Smart Grid Deployment

September 1, 2009

Control4, a leading developer of Home Area Network (“HAN”) and consumer energy management solutions, today announced that it has been selected as the HAN provider for Texas-based utility Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative. Serving more than 65,000 members in 14 counties between Austin and Houston, Bluebonnet plans to begin integrating smart grid technology in its members’ homes and businesses by April 2010. Control4 will provide Bluebonnet members with its Energy Management System, which includes a powerful yet intuitive in-home display with a programmable smart thermostat that will give users the usage data and device control necessary to manage energy use and expenses.

Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative is a progressive utility looking to maximize member satisfaction and encourage efficient energy use through its Smart Grid investments,” said Will West,Chief Executive Officer of Control4. “Control4 is proud to support this important initiative by providing user friendly home energy management and usage data to empower Bluebonnet members to become active in the utility’s progressive energy conservation programs.”

Bluebonnet recently announced its application for a Department of Energy stimulus grant to fund a transformation of its entire business to a Smart Grid. To assist in that transformation, Bluebonnet sought a HAN partner to help provide engaging information and advice to the consumer that facilitates energy conservation and efficiency. Bluebonnet selected Control4 based on the platform’s functionality, expandability and capabilities as both an energy management and control system.   The company’s proven technology leadership (with over one million ZigBee devices shipped) and its established network of over 1,550 dealers for distribution and support were added factors in the utility’s decision.

“After an extensive search process that included several product demonstrations, Bluebonnet chose the Control4® Energy Management System for its ability to provide up-to-the-minute information about energy usage and price that our members can use to manage their monthly electric bill,” said Mark Rose, Bluebonnet CEO. “Control4’s EMS-100 combines an easy-to-use touch screen with a flexible and expandable system at a reasonable price. These features will enable Bluebonnet’s members to be better consumers of energy and help us achieve our cooperative goal of a 20 percent reduction in system load by 2020.”

The Control4 EMS-100 system will work in concert with Silver Spring smart meters and eMeter software, feeding vital information back to the utility and providing customers with up-to-the-minute information on outages, conservation events and price spikes. The Control4® system delivers energy usage data from various loads in the home, allowing homeowners to take action and manually turn off devices or program the system to do so during peak times and demand response. The entry-level system is composed of the EC100 Energy Controller, a five-inch intuitive in-home touch screen device that supplies consumers with updates on energy usage and costs, tips for saving money on energy bills, power alerts from the utility, and information on various loads and activity within the home. The system also includes a programmable thermostat that communicates with the Energy Controller for heating and cooling control of homes and businesses. In addition to energy management and control, the EMS-100 offers engaging lifestyle applications and features such as weather reports, traffic updates, stock quotes and podcasts. With the EMS-100, Bluebonnet members can be active participants in managing their energy usage and reducing their utility bills. From powering down lights to controlling shades, utility customers have access to additional ways to further reduce their energy costs.

Control4 recently announced $17.3 million in financing to fund a new business unit, Control4 Energy Systems, based in Silicon Valley, California. The company’s proven home operating system and HAN management technologies can improve operational efficiency for utilities while delivering exceptional features and benefits for the consumer. Control4 Energy Systems works with utilities, AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) Partners, dealers and retailers to bring easy-to-use energy management systems to homes and small businesses. 

For more information on Control4 Energy Systems, please visit www.control4.com.  For more information on Bluebonnet Electric, please visit www.bluebonnetelectric.coop.


The Smart Grid in 2010: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

July 28, 2009

One of the biggest challenges to understanding new technologies can be the lack of centralized and credible information readily available. Such is the problem with the Smart Grid – that buzz word concept being tossed around by cleantech companies in the Bay area to policy analysts in Washington. But what does it mean?

Last week, I stumbled upon a report from David Leeds of GTM Research entitled “The Smart Grid in 2010: Market Segments, Applications and Industry Players.” The report, a cool 145 pages, provides an in depth analysis of the smart grid end-to-end, identifying the key players, the overall technology, the market drivers and barriers to adoption. Being an information junkie like I am, I downloaded it and read almost half over the weekend. Mr. Leeds does an excellent job of providing a type of clarity not often found in research papers and I found it not only extremely readable, but interesting.

Some highlights:

  • About $1.3 billion in venture capital was invested in the Smart Grid sector in the last 4 years and $105 million just in the last 2 quarters of 2009
  • The electric grid remains one of the last networks not transformed by information technology (IT) and is arguably one of the furthest reaching and most extensive networks in existence.
  • The three biggest challenges facing the Smart Grid are: interoperability standards, utility business models that promote energy efficiency and proper development of systems architecture that can support enterprise-wide current and future applications.
  • Without a Smart Grid, renewable technologies will remain niche at best. The hopes for widespread adoption of renewables is non-existent without a smart grid to faciliate and integrate these variable generation sources.
  • The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) estimates that it will cost $165 billion over two decades to complete the evolution to a smart grid worldwide.

The report also details the major players in the various markets within the smart grid industry and includes our client, Control4 as a company to watch in the consumer energy management systems space. Control4 just announced $17.3 million in funding to develop its AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) business.

If you are involved or interested in this new intelligent utility system that promises to be a challenging and revolutionizing new infrastructure, this report is a must read.

Download here – kudos to Mr. Leeds and GTM Research for an excellent piece.

Posted by: Ashley / ashleyatcaster on Twitter