There’s a new sheriff in town

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DOE takes on enforcement of standards

By Marianne DiMascio

It’s likely that you’ve heard of EnergyStar and seen the recent headlines about US Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency efforts to ensure that appliances are as energy efficient as the blue EnergyStar label indicates. It’s less likely that you’ve heard of a parallel DOE effort to ensure that minimum energy conservation standards are being met. Because mandatory efficiency standards apply to the manufacture of appliances and therefore are less noticeable to the consumer, standards don’t often make the six o’clock news. However, DOE is actively taking on the enforcement of standards as shown by the recent headlines on the website of the DOE General Counsel:

  • “DOE Requests Information to Improve Energy Efficiency Enforcement Process”
  • “DOE institutes Enforcement Action against 4 Showerhead Manufacturers for Failure to Certify 116 products”
  • “DOE Opens Three Investigations into Alleged Refrigerator Efficiency Violations”

In the latter press release, DOE notes that it: “takes seriously and will respond promptly to all credible information that products do not meet the federal energy efficiency standards.”

The stepped up enforcement is part of the Obama administration’s efforts to significantly increase the certification and enforcement of existing energy conservation standards. On May 4, DOE published a Request for Information asking for public feedback on a number of enforcement related issues. The website notes that DOE wants “to encourage compliance and to prevent manufacturers who break the law from having a competitive advantage over those that adhere to the rules.” According to General Counsel Scott Blake Harris, improvements will “make sure that [DOE] energy efficiency rules are rigorously and fairly enforced in order to save both energy and money for American consumers.”

Suggested improvements include the development of an ongoing program for verification testing of products sold on the market. Called “off-the-shelf” testing, it would involve acquiring products from stores for verification and then testing them at independent laboratories to verify that they meet conservation standards.

While the standards program is thought to have a generally good record of compliance, the lack of rigorous enforcement to date undermines confidence in national appliance standards.

“Given the magnitude of energy savings, we are pleased that DOE has taken steps to maintain the integrity of DOE’s appliance standards program” said Andrew deLaski, the executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. DOE’s website notes that “since President Obama came to office, DOE has issued or codified new efficiency standards for more than twenty different products, which will save consumers between $250 and $300 billion on their energy bills through 2030.”

One low-income advocate applauds DOE’s renewed commitment to enforcement. “Standards are one of the easiest, cheapest, and quickest ways to decrease energy use, save consumers money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” notes Charlie Harak of the National Consumer Law Center. “Enforcement of this incredibly cost effective energy strategy is not only what the law requires – it’s the smart thing to do.”

For more information on enforcement of standards, see the DOE website and the General Counsel Enforcement page.

Marianne DiMascio of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project is a guest blogger for Energy Efficiency Markets. Visit to pick up a free Energy Efficiency Markets podcast and newsletter.

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