By Lauren Urbanek, Natural Resources Defense Council
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued delay notices this week for two energy efficiency standards and three test procedures, which does nothing but create uncertainty for manufacturers and industry where there should be none. Taken together, these standards (including the standards supported by the test procedures) will save consumers more than $28 billion over 30 years of product shipments.
What do these delays do?
The DOE’s latest action delays the effective date for energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans and the design and construction of new federal low-rise residential buildings, and for test procedures for measuring the energy use of central air conditioners and heat pumps, air compressors, and walk-in coolers and freezers. Efficiency standards set the maximum amount of energy a product can use, and test procedures provide a uniform method for manufactures and the DOE to measure the product’s energy use. The effective date delays range from three to four months for the test procedures, to more than six months for the standards for ceiling fans and federal buildings.
The delays do not affect the compliance date for each of the rules, which come after the effective date. In the case of appliances and equipment, the compliance date is when manufacturers can no longer sell models that don’t meet the new standard, or must begin testing using the updated energy consumption test procedure for that appliance or piece of equipment.
Compliance dates for these rules range from summer 2017 for the test procedures to 2020 for the ceiling fan rule. While it is possible that the compliance dates may remain unchanged, delaying the effective date creates uncertainty for the product manufacturers and their supply chains. Rather than proceeding with confidence that the standard is in effect and will require compliance at a certain date, manufacturers may find it prudent not to begin investment in product or facility updates until after the new effective dates have passed. At best, this means manufacturers have less time to comply with the rules, which can prove costly.
Unnecessary and Unacceptable
The DOE claims that these delays were “necessary to give the newly appointed Secretary of Energy (Secretary) the opportunity for further review and consideration of new regulations.” Delaying the effective date of these rules is unnecessary and unacceptable – there is nothing more that needs to be considered for any of these rules. The DOE has set the standards at reasonable, cost-effective levels. All of the standards and test procedures affected by this decision were established through the DOE’s longstanding rulemaking process, which includes ample opportunity for stakeholder feedback and for the DOE to make changes to the rules. In fact, the test procedures for central AC and heat pumps and walk-in coolers and freezers were developed through a consensus rulemaking, which means industry representatives, efficiency advocates, DOE, and others all jointly developed the procedures.
Every one of these rules, for both standards and test procedures, have already been published in the Federal Register. For the standards for ceiling fans and federal low-rise residential buildings, this means that they are subject to anti-backsliding provisions – the DOE may not revise or change the standards during the delay to be any less stringent than the published rule.
Furthermore, the DOE has not followed proper procedure in issuing the delays. Courts have ruled that it’s not OK to delay the effective date of a rule without notice and an opportunity for public comment, and that wasn’t done here. The DOE’s process for setting standards and test procedures is robust and well-established, and produces great results. The DOE has done its due diligence on all of these rules and there is no reason for further delay.