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California’s Proposed Energy Efficiency Requirements Likely To Harm Low-Income Minority Residents the Most

According to recent surveys conducted by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, California is already one of the top states in terms of affordable electric bills, with the average household paying about $90 per month. But state lawmakers still aren’t satisfied with the numbers, and the California Energy Commission just recently released new energy standards that would make the state even more efficient than it already is.

According to a recent LA Times article, the Commission hopes to reduce electricity usage by 2,702 gigawatt hours per year, thus cutting the state’s overall energy spending by $430 million annually (roughly saving the average household about $20 per year).

So what are the latest targets of California’s energy efficiency standards? Desktop computers, monitors, laptops, and other similar electronic devices.

As the LA Times notes, Commissioner Andrew McAllister explained that the organization decided to target these appliances because they’re becoming more accessible, more affordable, and are used more for daily activities than ever before. That being said, environmental groups tend to focus on more obvious energy-reducing strategies, like promoting programmable thermostats that lower energy bills by 10%, or providing research on the long-term savings of LED light bulbs over halogen bulbs.

Quite simply, many consumers aren’t aware that their computers waste so much energy.

From the predictions provided by the California Energy Commission, it’s clear that these new standards could have a substantial effect on the state’s economy and efficiency. But the actual regulations and implications may be a little harsher than the predictions suggest.

For starters, another report was recently released by the Working Poor Families Project, which found that the majority of the nation’s 10.6 million low-income families are provided for financially by a minority adult. In California specifically — a state where minority demographics are constantly increasing — about 44% of all minority families are considered to be low-income households.

As the LA Times states, education (or lack thereof) has contributed quite a bit to this trend. It’s more important than ever before that young residents can earn a high school diploma, and ideally a college degree as well, in order to succeed.

But what’s one of the most essential items that students need to have in higher education institutions? A computer. Are computers expensive? For a family living off a minimum wage income, computers are luxuries. Will stricter energy efficiency standards make computers any cheaper? Not at all, based on the prices of energy-efficient refrigerators, light bulbs, and furnaces.

There’s no doubt that energy standards are important, but if so many California residents can’t even afford the appliances to begin with, then there’s clearly a much bigger problem at hand.