Green Watch: What to Expect from CES and the Detroit Auto Show

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by: Greentech Media

By Michael Kanellos

Two of the biggest technology trade shows-CES and the North American International Auto Show-take place later this month and energy efficiency and green will be lurking themes at both.

Here's a glimpse of what you should see.

First, CES (January 7-10):

--The Energy Efficient TV. Now that the California Energy Commission has passed regulations mandating improved energy efficiency in TVs, manufacturers will accelerate their efforts to curb power consumption in LCDs and plasmas. Ontario is even considering adopting California-like regulations.

Luckily, manufacturers have actually been steadily reducing power consumption for the last three years. Panasonic has a 42-inch plasma on the market that only uses 142 watts. Some of the new features you should expect to see touted at CES include automatic turn-off, techniques for reducing the number of light sources inside TVs (like this 32 watt, 32-inch TV from Hitachi with two bulbs in this truly heartwarming video), and more LEDs in TVs.

--The Green Home. For the past few years, Panasonic has sketched out a vision for net zero energy homes equipped with energy efficient appliances, residential fuel cells, LED lights, and solar panels. The vision is becoming a reality; earlier this year it began selling its fuel cell in Japan and just acquired a controlling interest in solar maker Sanyo. It also has lithium ion battery packs to store solar energy harvested in the day for nighttime use. Panasonic is going to be a big name in the house if they can pull this off.

Sharp (OTCPK:SHCAY)-which makes solar panels and LED bulbs-will also likely emphasize the green home.

--OLEDs. Organic light emitting diodes can be made into super slim TVs or thin light bulbs that can cover an entire wall. Too bad they are difficult to make and remain expensive. Still, Sony (NYSE:SNE), LG (NYSE:LPL) and Rohm will tout the future of OLEDs at CES. OLED TVs might become economically feasible by the middle of the decade. Look also for any mention about Kateeva, which has devised a manufacturing tool to produce large OLEDs.

--Lithium and Zinc. Not much to add here. A number of large Asian manufacturers like Toshiba already produce lithium ion batteries and want to start putting them into scooters and cars. Meanwhile, ReVolt Technologies and others say zinc gets around a lot of the problems associated with lithium ion cobalt batteries.

--3D TV. Granted, it's not really an energy efficiency topic, but nearly everyone will show off 3D TVs and the success of Avatar will give them confidence that's it is not just a parlor trick. Panasonic (PC), Sony, Sharp, Toshiba (OTCPK:TOSBF) and others showed us 3D TVs at Ceatec in Japan in October. Panasonic seemed to achieve the best visual experience but Toshiba had the best technique for converting native 2D to 3D. Besides, 3D impacts energy consumption, which brings us back to number one on this list.

--Home Automation and Control. Home automation has been a staple of CES for over a decade. In the early part of the decade, automation systems were mostly touted as enhanced security systems: if someone jiggled the window, you'd get a ping on your cell phone. Consumers didn't crack the wallets open.

Energy, though, makes home automation compelling. Intel wants to get involved in home automation and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) have competing energy management consoles.

The big demo will be a home energy management system from Direct Energy, Whirlpool (NYSE:WHR), Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), Lennox (NYSE:LII) and OpenPeak.

NAIAS (January 11-24):

--Dow (NYSE:DOW). What? The chemical company? Dow sponsors the electric car exhibit at the show. Dow has a multi-pronged approach to green. Battery maker Dow Kokam has a press conference on January 12.

--The Volt. General Motors says it will have a big announcement on the Volt's batteries on January 7. More here.

--Ford (NYSE:F) all over the place. Ford has spent the last several months talking up its strategy for energy-efficient gas engines, hybrid, plug-in hybrids and electrics. The company will probably spend time talking about its all-electrics coming toward the end of 2010 as well as the Fiesta and other cars coming off of its global car platform, which reduces costs by exploiting common components and technologies across product lines. Ford CEO Alan Mulally will speak at CES, by the way.

--Tesla and Fisker. The bickering will continue. Tesla is in the midst of a road trip to Detroit with the Roadster and nearly every automotive journalist I speak to says they are atwitter about the Karma coming later this year. Expect both to discuss their factory plans and mid-priced cars coming after 2010. Possible CES cross-over: Tesla may formally announce that Panasonic will provide the batteries for the Model S. I have no information that it will, but it would be nice.

--BYD (OTCPK:BYDDY). The Chinese auto maker that wants to bring electric cars to the masses will be in Detroit. Sales so far are not hitting earlier estimates, but that's sort of par for electric car makers.