Big flat TV sales could lead to big stress on power grid

Kansas City StarOctober 26, 2009 

We all scream for flat screens, even in a flat economy.

But the bigger picture, many say, is one of unnecessary stress on the nation's electricity supply for years to come.

In a culture that resists carbon-emitting power plants but covets the latest gadgetry -- high-speed here, high-def there and knowing "there's an app for that" -- well, there’s also an electric bill for that.

Televisions, in a sizzling comeback, are leading the pixilated pack and stirring the most concern among energy conservationists. California is even poised to require that new models be more efficient.

Since 2000, "we've seen energy consumption from TVs jump from 3 percent (of residential electric use) to 8 percent and climbing," said Adam Gottlieb of the California Energy Commission.

"If we sat on our hands and did nothing . . . we would need to build a $615 million power plant" just to feed all of the state's hungry flat-panels by 2020.

Sales of TV sets are through the roof, where the antenna used to be.

"Here we are in a terrible economic time and the demand for TVs of all kinds has grown incredibly," said Tamaryn Pratt of Quixel Research, which tracks market trends.

Experts attribute much of the surge -- an estimated 35 million digital sets shipped to dealers this year, up from 25 million in 2007-- to plunging prices and the nation's recent switch to digital broadcasting.

Even as polls show television audiences moving to computers for entertainment, Nielsen numbers show Americans with more working TVs than ever before (roughly 3 sets per home now, compared with 2.1 in 1990).

And those sets are switched on 8.5 hours a day per household, an hour longer than a decade ago.


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