DOE Inaction Will Cost Consumers Billions

Failure to update energy efficiency standards will also worsen carbon emissions.

By: Mel Hall-Crawford, CFA Director of Energy Programs & Special Projects

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Consumers risk losing at least $22 billion in annual savings while the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) fails to meet its legal responsibility to review and update overdue energy efficiency standards for an unprecedented 26 consumer and commercial products, six environmental groups warned in a notice of intent to sue letter filed with the agency earlier this month.

Failure to update these standards will also result in almost 80 million metric tons of carbon being spewed into the atmosphere by 2035 — an amount equivalent to the annual tailpipe emissions from more than 17 million cars, the groups argued.

The groups, including CFA, threaten to sue DOE should it fail to meet its requirements within 60 days. “DOE under the Trump administration has repeatedly and systemically failed to comply with these basic and important duties,” the letter states. “If DOE does not comply with its duty to complete the actions required under [the Energy Policy Conservation Act (EPCA)] to review and update the standards for these products within sixty days, we intend to bring suit to compel it to do so.”

Since its 1987 launch, the national efficiency standards program has saved Americans billions of dollars on their utility bills and is projected to save $2 trillion and help the U.S. avoid seven billion tons of carbon pollution by 2030. Under President Trump, however, the DOE has failed to review more standards than any other presidential administration in the history of the 33-year-old national energy efficiency standards program.

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The iPhone was just three years old the last time some of these standards were updated over a decade ago, while technology continues to rapidly evolve. Without the required updates to standards, less efficient products remain on the market, and consumers may inadvertently choose products that waste energy and cost more to operate.

The letter to Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette notes DOE has missed deadlines for reviewing, finalizing, or adopting efficiency standards for 26 products. Under EPCA DOE is required to review a standard every six years and update it if warranted. Standards that were due for an update as far back as 2016 still haven’t been reviewed.

Instead, the agency has taken steps to roll-back existing standards. Specifically, the agency has rolled back two light bulb standards that would have saved consumers $14 billion on their utility bills and avoided 38 million tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions every year. DOE has also finalized changes to its efficiency standards process that will slow down, if not halt altogether, future efforts to make America’s appliances and equipment more efficient.

“DOE’s flagrant disregard for its legal responsibility to act on efficiency standards for 26 products — among them refrigerators, clothes washers, dryers, and water heaters — robs consumers of savings on their utility bills. If the agency doesn’t move to fulfill its mandate under the law, we will have to seek remedy in the courts to have it comply responsibly with the law,” said CFA Energy Projects Director Mel Hall-Crawford.

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