California imposes energy-efficiency standards on battery chargers 

By Marc Lifsher of Los Angeles Times: 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 on a 3-0 vote Thursday approved first-in-the-nation efficiency standards targeting about 170 million so-called vampire charging systems that waste as much as 60% of the electricity they suck from outlets.

The regulations generated strong opposition from appliance and consumer products makers. But they are expected to save enough electricity to power 350,000 homes, equivalent to a city the size of Bakersfield. The rules also are projected to 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,” Commissioner Karen Douglas said. “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.”

Many currently available battery chargers already comply with the new California standards, the Energy Commission said. Most of the new technology is off the shelf and inexpensive, Douglas said.

For example, consumers might 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 new rules would take effect on Feb. 1, 2013, for chargers used with consumer goods, such as phones and power tools; on Jan. 1, 2014, for industrial chargers, such as forklifts; and on Jan. 1, 2017, for commercial equipment chargers, including walkie-talkies for emergency personnel and portable bar-code scanners.

The standards are part of a more than three-decade drive in California to make appliances and buildings more efficient to cut energy use, reduce pollution and save money. California’s official energy policy gives efficiency the highest priority because it’s far cheaper than developing solar, wind and other renewable power or construction of natural-gas-fired power plants.

The effort began with air conditioners in 1977, 13 years ahead of the U.S. government. Since then, state regulations have forced appliance and electronics makers to develop electricity-sipping refrigerators, lighting and, most recently, big-screen, flat-panel television sets in 2009.

The Energy Commission estimates that those initiatives have saved ratepayers about $36 billion. They’ve also helped California to keep its per-capita energy consumption flat over the last 30 years, while the rest of the country’s power demand grew 50%. Read more

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