Ontario considers flat-screen crackdown

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Ontario is looking at tougher energy efficiency rules for flat-screen TVs that suck electricity like SUVs guzzle gas, saving consumers money on their hydro bills but possibly forcing television prices higher.

"We're always looking at ways we need to improve standards with appliances," Energy Minister Gerry Phillips said after California's energy regulator voted to require dramatically lower electricity use in flat-screen TV models starting in 2011.

"Over the next few months we'll be looking at whether we need to set some additional new standards."

With the fast-selling flat-screen TVs using between 50 and 300 per cent more power than comparable older-style tube sets, "this is one of the things that is increasing energy demand," noted Phillips.

The new California rules apply to TVs under 58 inches, which account for about 97 per cent of the market. About 3.3 million flat-screen TVs, in both plasma and LCD versions, will be sold in Canada this year.

As it struggles with electricity challenges, California will require, for example, new 42-inch flat-panel TVs to use no more than 183 watt-hours and less than 116 watt-hours by 2013. Now, the average plasma TV uses 338 watt-hours and LCDs 176 watt-hours.

It's time the Ontario government considered tougher standards on this front, said New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath, who acknowledged she is like many consumers and never thought to check into how much power her own flat-screen TV uses before buying it two years ago.

"It's a matter of raising awareness and giving people the information they need to make wise choices," she told reporters.

Phillips, who replaced George Smitherman as energy minister last week, said consumers should start thinking about energy consumption when buying TVs, just as they do when looking at fridges, air conditioners and dishwashers.


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