New Briefing Paper: States Can Lead the Way to Improved Appliance Energy Efficiency Standards

by Wayland Radin

August 24, 2012

Today CPR releases a new briefing paper explaining how states can spearhead improving energy efficiency standards for home appliances. The paper, States Can Lead the Way to Improved Appliance Energy Efficiency Standards, draws on ideas discussed in Alexandra B. Klass’s article State Standards for Nationwide Products Revisited: Federalism, Green Building Codes, and Appliance Efficiency Standards. I co-authored today’s paper with CPR Member Scholars Klass and Lesley McAllister.

Traditionally a strongly bipartisan issue, support for energy efficiency has been eroded by anti-regulation sentiments.  Without strong political support or adequate resources, the Department of Energy (DOE) has struggled to promulgate adequate efficiency standards.  Regulatory efforts at the federal level have come up short, resulting in weak and delayed standards, or often no standards at all.  In the absence of a dramatic shift in political will at the federal level, the most effective way to bring about improved efficiency standards and realize their attendant benefits will be to establish a system that retains strong federal standards while allowing states to set alternative, more stringent standards.

Such a system could be implemented by amending DOE’s existing regulations.  First, DOE should clarify the existing state waiver process and respond more favorably to such requests so that states can successfully obtain waivers granting them permission to adopt improved appliance efficiency standards.  Second, DOE should amend its regulations to allow states to adopt another state’s approved standard, thereby making improved standards available nationwide.  Finally, DOE should ensure that there is only one standard in addition to the federal baseline for an appliance at any time.

Allowing states to take the lead in improving appliance energy efficiency standards will benefit consumers, manufacturers, and the environment.  Consumers will save money on their electric bills and enjoy updated appliances at a lower cost as a result of improved standards.  Manufacturers stand to gain from increased sales and lowered production costs.  The environment will benefit from reduced natural resource consumption and lowered greenhouse gas emissions.  Unfortunately, these benefits are not currently realized due to numerous delays at both the political and federal agency levels.  These delays will result in at least $28 billion in unrealized energy savings by 2030.  To avoid this result, DOE can work with states to allow them to take the lead in achieving meaningful efficiency gains without creating a 50-state patchwork of regulation for manufacturers.

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