Energy Efficiency Standards Revisited

There is compelling new evidence that well designed standards for energy consuming products can drive innovation and save consumers enormous amounts of money over the life of those products. This is a thesis that I have expressed support for on more than one occasion.

A new report entitled “The Efficiency Boom” is the work of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and a multi-stakeholder group called the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (“ASAP).

The report takes a retrospective look at the various energy standards that have been adopted since the 1980s as well as potential new or updated standards in 34 categories (e.g. industrial boilers, dishwashers, microwaves, computers, televisions, lighting fixtures and so on). The energy and dollar savings from these standards are truly impressive.

• The existing standards will net consumers more than $1.1 trillion cumulatively through 2035.

• Those same standards will have saved more than 200 quads of energy, an amount equivalent to two entire years of domestic energy consumption.

• Lower energy use has also resulted in fewer emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, has reduced the strain on our electric grid and has alleviated the need to build additional power plants. The avoided electricity consumption is roughly equal to 14% of what would be required for the nation in 2035.

• The potential new standards could increase the savings by nearly 50%, saving 310 terawatt hours (~ 7% of projected electricity demand that year), saving enough natural gas to heat 8% of all U.S. homes heated with gas, and avoiding emission of 200 million tons of CO2 (equivalent to 49 coal-fired plants).

The top ten products (meaning the ones where the savings potential is greatest due to standard setting) are: water heaters; incandescent reflector lamps; air handlers; walk-in freezers; transformers; outdoor light fixtures; set-top boxes; electric motors; computers and monitors; and candelabra lamps. The report also notes that energy efficiency standards have great job producing impacts and that the approach enjoys widespread support from stakeholders (e.g. the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 61% of consumers supported more efficient light bulbs being mandated).

If there are such enormous economic and environmental benefits available from well-crafted energy efficiency standards and they have wide support from industry and the public, what is the rationale for opposing them? There is clearly a backlash at the moment against government regulation in general. The point made here before bears restating: performance standards can accelerate innovation and clean technology market development. The “Efficiency Boom” is well worth reading for that reason.

Are you in support of well-designed standards for energy consuming products that drive innovation and save you money?

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