The California Energy Commission has proposed a set of standards that would lead to TVs that consume 33 percent less power than they do now by 2011 and 49 percent by 2013.

The regulations, which have been anticipated since the beginning of the year and dovetail to some degree with product plans already in place, would help curb the energy consumed by one of the big power guzzlers in the home. Televisions, DVD players, DVRs and cable boxes consume about 10 percent of the power in the average home and these products are largely avoided in the state's energy efficiency regulations on appliances. Since the mid-1970s, California has imposed some of the strictest energy efficiency standards in the U.S. on appliances (see Green Light post).

Those appliance regulations are one of the big reasons that per capita power consumption has stayed relatively flat for three decades in California. It's part of a phenomenon known as the Rosenfeld Effect, which is named for the champion of the regulations, Art Rosenfeld. In the rest of the nation, it has increased by 40 percent (see Will Utilities Control Your TV).

Consumers can expect to save $18 to $30 a year from the new regulations, says the Energy Commission. Californians have an estimated 35 million TVs that consume 8.8 gigawatt hours annually. Leaving 40,000 TVs on for five hours a day would chew up a gigawatt.

Although the regulations sound stringent, the TV industry has already been steadily working hard to reduce power consumption. At the Ceatec trade show outside of Tokyo in October 2008, various television manufacturers showed off big screen TVs that can function on far less power than earlier versions (see Venture Power in Japan: Green Electronics). Panasonic has said it wants to cut the power consumed by plasma TVs (around 230 watts) by two-thirds by 2010 or 2011. Sharp even made a prototype LCD TV that operates on 40 watts – it can even run on solar panels.

Sony and others are also in discussions to figure out ways to link up TVs to demand response and smart meter networks.

Technology that will meet the 2011 regulations are already on the market, the Energy Commission said. And, no, it's not banning plasma TVs.