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California Ratchets Standards on Air Conditioners

The California Energy Commission has adopted the nation's toughest energy efficiency standards for central air conditioners -- a move that could further diminish electricity demand during hot summers.

Following a 4-0 vote to approve the new standards at the Energy Commission's last Business Meeting, Commissioner Robert Pernell said "California has hurled a challenge to the federal government to give us an additional tool in our efforts to solve our energy problem."

The new regulations for home air conditioners are a 30% improvement on the current standard and are 10% better than the proposed federal standard -- requiring a waiver from Washington to become law.

Stressing that home and commercial cooling accounts for nearly 30% of the total energy use by the state during hot summer afternoons, Pernell, Chair of the Energy Commission's Efficiency Committee said:

"The new air conditioner standards reflect the drier climate in California, and, along with the full set of standards, can reduce our peak electricity demand by 134 megawatts - the equivalent of a medium-sized power plant costing about $80 million."

The air conditioning standards were among the new ones approved, including those covering commercial refrigerators, beverage vending machines, exit signs, traffic signals, torchiere lighting fixtures, coin-operated clothes washers, and electricity transformers.

The new rules, part of the energy conservation goals of Assembly Bill 970 signed by Governor Gray Davis in September 2000, were negotiated after numerous workshops and input from consumers, manufacturers, electric and water utilities, environmental groups, and other stakeholders in the appliance industry.

John M Mandyck, Vice President of the Carrier Corporation, a leading manufacturer of heating, air conditioning and refrigeration equipment said:

"The California Energy Commission has worked hard to craft new appliance standards to best serve the energy conservation needs of California, and we are pleased the regulations call attention to the growing number of air conditioning and refrigeration products that have begun to use environmentally sound, non-ozone depleting refrigerants."

Some of the new standards will slightly increase the purchase cost of new appliances. But consumers will make up the initial cost through savings in energy bills. With the new standards, the Energy Commission estimates that Californians will save almost $3.4 billion over a 10-year period.

Since California adopted the nation's first appliance standards in 1976, it has led the Union in ensuring that the rules remain attuned to the changing electricity climate. Over the years, many of California's appliance efficiency regulations have been adopted as federal standards.

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