Electronic Design

California Sets Green Power-Supply Standards

The California Energy Commission's (CEC) latest standards place new energy-efficiency requirements on a host of products. Taking effect over the next two years, the standards must be cost-effective based on a reasonable use pattern. In other words, they must not result in added total costs to the consumer over the application's lifetime.

The standards are small in relation to California's total energy usage, as the state and its 40 million people represent the world's fifth-largest economy. Yet applying the standards to new consumer electronics could yield substantial energy savings.

The CEC released these standards as part of a staff report titled Update Of Appliance Efficiency Regulations. It created a buzz at last November's Power Electronics show, where lots of talk centered around requirements for lower standby-power consumption. Consumer-entertainment boxes that now use 2 to 10 W, even when they're turned off, will have to get by on less.

For example, limiting the 1.1 million compact audio devices sold next year in California to 2 W of standby power could save 51 kWh each, or a total of 56.1 million kWh/year. A maximum standby of 3 W in next year's 2.5 million TVs sold would save 67.5 million kWh/year. For a complete list of standards and savings, go to www.energy.ca.gov/reports/2004-11-30_400-04-007F.PDF.

External supplies must meet their standards by July 1, 2006. Supplies with a nominal output of less than 10 W will be limited to 0.5 W in standby. Those with rated outputs from 10 to 250 W will be limited to 0.75 W in active mode. External supplies with a nominal output of less than 1 W must achieve 49% efficiency. Those rated from 1 to 49 W must achieve an efficiency of at least 49% + 0.09 times the natural log of their maximum rated output in watts. And, those rated for more than 49 W must achieve at least 84% efficiency.

The standards affect everything from office-building air conditioners to lamps and appliances. But perhaps the most familiar item forced into oblivion is the low-wattage, transformer-based wall-wart. From now on, it will be switching supplies exclusively.

One of the first companies to exploit the standards, Power Integrations, offers a CEC FAQ at www.powerint.com/PDFFiles/cecfaq.pdf and an array of copy-ready reference designs for CEC-compliant external power supplies at www.powerint.com/greenroom/reg_cec.htm.

California Energy Commission

Power Integrations

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