New TV test method underpins world-leading European energy policy

(eceee news, 8 Nov 2019) On October 1st, the European Commission adopted the most stringent energy performance standards in the world for TVs, computer monitors and other electronic displays, along with labeling requirements for other products. The new rules are a major policy advance under the EU’s Ecodesign Directive, realized in part through years of sustained engagement by technical experts and advocates for strong efficiency policy.

Taking effect in two stages in 2021 and 2023, the new regulation for electronic displays is expected to avoid 39 TWh of electricity and 13 Mt CO2-equivalent annually by 2030.

At the heart of the revised policy for TVs and other electronic displays is an update to the test method that has been used to assess those products for more than a decade. “Europe’s forthcoming TV testing methodology is critical because accurate performance data is the foundation on which effective appliance policy is built,” said Eric Gibbs, CLASP’s Chief Policy and Analysis Officer, of the update. “Elements of the new test method have already been adopted in limited settings internationally, and once European regulators fully implement the new methodology it will set off a global shift toward a more accurate accounting of the energy and carbon footprint of this product class.”

Since the existing TV test method was adopted in 2007, markets have shifted toward larger, brighter and higher-resolution displays that can drive up energy use, which the test method only partially measures because it relies on low-resolution video footage that does not reflect typical TV content. As a result, there can be a significant discrepancy between TV test results and the real-life energy performance of TVs in people’s homes and offices. In addition, CLASP recognized that the video test sequence used in the current testing procedure was being exploited by some TV manufacturers to gain more favorable energy performance ratings.

To address these issues, CLASP worked with Newsbyte, a video production team specializing in cutting-edge formats, to develop a new 10-minute video test sequence designed to be more representative of typical content and thereby improve measurement accuracy. The new test sequence they created incorporates a variety of custom-filmed clips that reflect common viewing habits, including street scenes, sports, advertising, a TV drama and a news talk show.

The final product was released in five formats – a significant expansion on the two formats available under the old test method – including an ultra-high-definition format that will accurately test the most popular TVs in the European market today, and two formats that address the more advanced high-dynamic-range (HDR) displays that are beginning to gain traction with consumers.

The new test video has already been used by market surveillance authorities in Europe to assess the performance of TVs currently on the market, and it is a key component of the new rules that European regulators adopted last month, which go into effect in 2021. It is also used by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which in 2016 instructed TV manufacturers to report energy consumption using the new test video. The Geneva-based International Electrotechnical Commission, which publishes international product test standards that many governments look to in setting their own regulations, has indicated it will use the new test video when it next updates TV test methods in April 2021, effectively making it a universal benchmark.

Beyond upgrading the video component of the TV test method, CLASP recognized that a technology known as Automatic Brightness Control (ABC), which reduces screen brightness to match viewers’ ambient lighting conditions, had energy reduction potential that was not being fully realized by manufacturers due in part to gaps in the testing procedure. CLASP worked with Intertek, a global quality assurance provider, and Robert Harrison Associates to develop a new ABC testing method that is both simpler and more reliable than older ABC test methodologies and better captures energy reductions across a range of lighting conditions. The new methodology for assessing ABC conformance is incorporated into the forthcoming European regulation for electronic displays.