Each year’s delay in setting three new Department of Energy appliance efficiency standards costs consumers and businesses billions of dollars in higher energy bills, according to a new study by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project [ http://www.standardsasap.org/] Implementing new efficiency standards for residential furnaces and boilers, commercial air conditioners, and distribution transformers could decrease our annual energy use significantly – enough electricity to power about 330,000 typical U.S homes and natural gas to heat about 170,000 homes. Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and a principal author of the report noted, "Strong standards for these three products could slash U.S. electricity demand by about 22,000 megawatts, eliminating the need for as many as 70 new power plants in the years ahead."
"Across two administrations, DOE has missed one legal deadline after another for reviewing and upgrading efficiency standards – it’s been a bipartisan failure," said Andrew deLaski, Executive Director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project and a principal author of the report. "For just the three products labeled as ‘high priority’ by DOE, each year of delay costs consumers and businesses over $7 billion dollars in higher energy costs over the lifetimes of the additional inefficient equipment sold." The report includes an appendix with state-by-state estimates of the impact such new standards would have on energy use, energy bills, and the environment.
DOE named development of new standards for residential furnaces and boilers, commercial air conditioners, and distribution transformers its "high priorities" in 2001. Since 2001, DOE has repeatedly missed self-imposed deadlines for advancing new standards. According to the report, Congress required a new furnace standard by 1994 and a new transformer standard by 1996.
The report’s authors found that among the three "high priority" standards, the largest energy and economic savings would come from updating the furnace and boiler standard. Unfortunately, DOE ignores the electricity consumed by furnace fans within the standard despite the fact that a furnace fan uses twice as much electricity as a new refrigerator. Furthermore, DOE sets one national standard, undifferentiated for climatic differences.
"A one-size-fits-all national furnace standard ignores the fact that it’s much colder in Minnesota than in Mississippi," said deLaski. "DOE could fix this problem by setting two standardsÃ‚â€”one for cold weather states and one for the rest of the country." DOE asserted that it lacks legal authority to regulate furnace electricity consumption or to set a cold weather state standard. Efficiency supporters think differently and will testify that DOE must do both to meet the letter and intent of the appliance standards law that requires the agency to set standards at levels that maximize energy efficiency and that are "technologically feasible and economically justified."
DOE will hold public hearings for the three standards and will accept public comment through November. Under its normal procedures, DOE would review those comments, complete further analysis, and issue a proposed rule in about one year and follow that proposal with a final rule about six months later. For most products, the new standards would go into effect three years after the final rule is published.