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Calif. Commission Approves Regulations on...Battery Chargers

Calif. Commission Approves Regulations on...Battery Chargers

California is enacting the nation’s first "energy efficiency standards" for battery chargers used to power phones, power tools and laptops.

“The California Energy Commission, by a 3-0 vote Thursday, approved first-in-the-nation efficiency standards designed to drive stakes through the hearts of about 170 million so-called vampire charging systems that waste as much as 60 percent of the electricity they suck from outlets,” reports Marc Lifsher of the Los Angeles Times.

California's standards take effect next year, and several states in the Northwest are considering similar regulations. The U.S. Department of Energy is also working on setting national standards for battery chargers.

"Once again, California is setting the standard for energy efficiency, keeping the state's dominance as the most energy efficient state per capita," said commission chair Robert Weisenmiller.

Naturally, appliance and consumer products manufactures strongly opposed the motion. Manufacturers say the move is the first step toward a patchwork of requirements that could drive up costs and end up costing consumers more for their appliances gadgets.

"It essentially means manufacturers are going to have to retool for California and they may have to retool again when DOE comes out with their final standard," said Jill Notini, spokeswoman for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. "There could be implications for cost of products and choice of products."

But the energy savings costs should more than offset the extra price, according to The Consumerist.

The new regulations “are expected to save enough electricity to power 350,000 homes, equivalent to a city the size of Bakersfield,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The new regulations will also supposedly save an $306 million a year off residential and commercial electricity bills.

"This means that we can have the devices that we like in our lives and that make our lives easier," said Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas. "But, by taking a few relatively simple steps to improve battery chargers, we can save so much electricity, take care of the environment and save ratepayers money."

Most of the new technology is off the shelf and inexpensive, Douglas said.

According to the Times report:

…consumers would pay an additional 40 cents for an electric toothbrush with an efficient battery charger, but would save $1.19 in electricity costs over the lifetime of the product, according to a commission staff report. An upgraded battery charger would boost the price of a laptop computer by 50 cents but would save $19 in power costs.

California's "energy efficiency standards" for battery chargers shouldn’t come as a surprise. The state has a long and proud history of regulating most anything to do with power.

Recall that as far back as 1977, California was regulating air conditioners and then it was refrigerators, and then hot-water heaters, then lighting, then large-screen televisions and other appliances that have allegedly saved ratepayers $36 billion, the commission said.

As far as concerns raised by manufacturers, Delforge said the commission worked with trade and environmental groups for more than a year before adopting the new standards, making some concessions to help product makers meet the new regulations.

"It requires a change in their design, and changes always require more effort and more engineering and more design time, and if they don't have to do it they'd rather focus on other things," he said. "If they had to pay the electric bill, we'd already see these changes in the marketplace."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(h/t The Consumerist)

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