California Title 20: Past, Present, and Future

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 11:39 -- MrGreen

The California Energy Commission (CEC) is California’s primary energy policy and planning agency.  To understand why efficiency standards have been such a focus for the agency, one can rewind to 1972, when California faced an energy emergency.  According to the California Resources Agency at the time, energy usage was doubling every 8-10 years.  At that rate, the state would need to build a large number of power plants, based on projections of the new capacity required.  Those power plants, moreover, would require a source of water for cooling, so the state looked toward its Pacific coastline and considered building a power plant along it every 8 miles.  California commissioned the RAND Corporation to study the problem and provide recommendations.  Upon further evaluation, only 17 possible sites were identified, including a number with land-use conflicts and all with exposure to the earthquake faults running parallel to the coast.  Emerging from the analysis, however, were other policy recommendations, including the seeds of energy efficiency regulations.

In 1974, California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the Warren-Alquist Act, giving statutory authority to the CEC.  As a result, the first appliance efficiency regulations (under Title 20) were born in 1976, with the first tier of residential appliance standards, covering refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners, effective in 1977.  Since 1975, per the CEC Appliances Office, energy efficiency standards, including those for appliance standards, building standards, and energy efficiency programs, have saved California approximately $75 billion in electricity costs.

The structure and organization of Title 20 regulations cover 23 appliance categories with 75 specific appliance types.  Categories range from air conditioners, fans, heat pumps, and plumbing products to cooking, washing, and refrigeration products to computers, electronics, and lighting.  For exact product types and models, one can refer to the Commission’s searchable Modernized Appliance Efficiency Database System (MAEDBS), located at

For state-regulated appliances, manufacturers must certify to MAEDBS prior to being offered for sale or sold in California.  In contrast, for federally regulated appliances, manufacturers must certify to the Department of Energy’s Compliance Certification Management System (CCMS) before distributing an appliance in commerce in the U.S. and certify to MAEDBS before selling or offering the appliance for sale in California.  Annual re-certification is required to CCMS but not to MAEDBS. For both state-regulated and federally regulated appliances, effective dates for standards are generally based on the manufacture date.

Recent California appliance efficiency rulemakings include those for portable electric spas (in 2018) and computers, computer monitors, and state-regulated LEDs (in 2016).  State standards effective in 2018 include computers (selected types), state-regulated general service lamps, LEDs, small diameter directional lamps, and showerheads.  State standards effective in 2019 include notebook computers (January 1, 2019), Tier I for desktop computers (January 1, 2019), portable electric spas (June 1, 2019), computer monitors (July 1, 2019), and Tier II for LEDs (July 1, 2019).

Looking forward, active and upcoming formal rulemakings include those for portable air conditioners (Docket # 18-AAER-04), commercial and industrial air compressors (Docket # 18-AAER-05), and spray sprinkler bodies (Docket # 17-AAER-08).

Finally, at the early but active pre-rulemaking phase are roadmap investigations into set-top boxes, low-power modes and power factor, and solar inverters.