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California imposes energy standards on chargers for mobile devices

January 12, 2012|By Marc Lifsher
  • The California Energy Commission has imposed new energy-efficiency standards on battery chargers for smartphones, tablets and other consumer electronics.
The California Energy Commission has imposed new energy-efficiency standards… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Sacramento — California's cellphones, tablet computers, power tools and hundreds of other portable electronic devices will be required to have energy-stingy battery chargers beginning next year.

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% of the electricity they suck from outlets.

The regulations, which generated strong opposition from appliance and consumer products makers, are expected to save enough electricity to power 350,000 homes, equivalent to a city the size of Bakersfield. The rules also should shave an estimated $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.

For example, 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.

The battery-charger standards are the latest in a series of state-mandated upgrades that started with air conditioners in 1977 and subsequently led to more efficient refrigerators, hot-water heaters, lighting, large-screen televisions and other appliances that have saved ratepayers $36 billion, the commission said.

Trade groups for manufacturers of battery-operated consumer products agree with the commission's goal of making electronics that use less power. But they question the commission's cost-savings estimates and challenge the need for stringent state standards. California should wait for the federal government to issue nationwide efficiency rules, they said. 


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