California regulators are intensifying efforts to wring every possible electron out of common household devices.
This time, the focus is on cutting the use of electricity by power-hungry computers and monitors.
The California Energy Commission just released the latest in a long line of energy-efficiency standards that made the Golden State a world leader in saving electricity. Past targets have included refrigerators, air conditioners, flat-screen televisions, battery chargers and dozens of other appliances and electronic devices.
The commission is writing proposed minimum power consumption standards that it estimates would save 2,702 gigawatt hours a year of electricity. That's roughly the combined usage of the cities of Long Beach, Anaheim, Huntington Beach and Riverside. Utility customers could shave a total of $430 million off their annual electric bills, or about $20 a year for a household that owns one desktop computer, one laptop and one monitor.
Computers and monitors are among the leading users of energy in California and "spend roughly half their time ... on but not being used." Commissioner Andrew McAllister said.
Boosting efficiency is a good deal, he said. For example, a $2 investment in manufacturing a more power-stingy desktop computer would save $69 over five years, he said.
Electronics manufacturers question the commission's arithmetic. They prefer voluntary efficiency programs, such as a 2012 manufacturers' agreement that reduced the energy consumption of cable and satellite television set-top boxes. Consumers saved $168 million in 2013, according to an industry report.
California should let electronics makers develop their own products, said Douglas Johnson, vice president for technology policy for the Consumer Electronics Assn. "We don't wait for regulations to make products more efficient."
Aggressive energy-efficiency standards, the commission argues, has helped California keep its per-capital electric power consumption flat for the last 30 years, while the rest of the country's has seen power use jump 40%.
Many of California's small-business owners say they're doing better financially.
But they're still wary about hiring new workers and new government regulations such as computer-efficiency standards.
An annual informal survey of 676 executives by Small Business California, which advocates at the Capitol for 10,000 entrepreneurs, shows that 43% think the economy has improved in the last six months. That's up from 38% in the previous year's survey. Roughly the same percentage of respondents said they plan to hire new workers in the next six months, a slight jump from 2014.
Almost 70% of small-business owners surveyed called it a "top" or a "high" priority to curb excessive government regulation.
"They're skeptical," said Small Business California President Scott Hauge in San Francisco, "especially when regulations are going to cost them more."