States Lead DOE on Energy-Saving Standards, Says Coalition Group

States Lead DOE on Energy-Saving Standards, Says Coalition Group

A coalition group is praising the states of California and New Jersey for advancing new energy-saving appliance standards.

"The states are leading the way," said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. "California's and New Jersey's new standards will cut energy waste, save consumers and businesses money, and reduce pollution starting as soon as 2006."

The California Energy Commission recently set new energy efficiency standards for 17 different products ranging from light bulbs to swimming pool pumps to large air conditioners. According to the CEC, the new standards will reduce energy costs for California businesses and consumers by more than $3 billion over fifteen years and will eliminate the need for three new power plants within ten years.

"At their full effectiveness, these standards will save enough energy to power all the homes in San Francisco and eliminate global warming carbon pollution equivalent to taking 320,000 cars off the road," stated Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In New Jersey, the State Senate has approved legislation passed by the ssembly last spring that will establish standards for eight products including commercial refrigerators, exit signs, and commercial clothes washers. Final passage and approval by the acting governor (who voted for the bill in his capacity as a state senator) is expected in January. Earlier this year, Maryland and Connecticut passed laws establishing energy-saving standards for nine and eight products, respectively.

But in Washington, national efficiency standards have stalled. The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced an additional two-year delay for new standards slated for natural gas and oil furnaces and boilers and a new 18-month delay for commercial air conditioners and electric distribution transformers.

"With natural gas prices at record highs and the memory of regional blackouts still fresh, state policymakers recognize that saving energy is a top priority," said Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. "But at DOE, the cycle of delays gets worse every year."

DOE first named upgrades to the 1987 home furnace standard and the 1992 commercial air conditioner standard "high priorities" in 2001, but each year announces a new delay. The latest means DOE will not finish new standards until late 2007. They would not go into effect until 2010 to 2016. By law, the new national furnace standard was due in 1994. According to a September report published by deLaski's and Nadel's groups, each year of delay in these three national standards locks in $7.1 billion in higher energy costs for consumers and businesses.

The new standards established by California, Maryland, and Connecticut and pending final approval in New Jersey all address products not covered by federal standards. Absent a special waiver from U.S. DOE, states are prohibited from establishing their own standards for products covered by federal standards.