06/19/14 :

Alliance Honorary Vice-Chair Introduces Fix to Energy Star Program

New bill will help protect Energy Star companies.

Since its inception in 1992, the Energy Star program has helped American consumers and businesses invest in energy efficiency and drastically cut their energy bills. In fact, as of December 2012, Energy Star has helped households and businesses save more than $239 billion on their energy bills.

Despite the successes of the program, there’s always room for improvement, which is why Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Honorary Vice-Chair of the Alliance to Save Energy, and Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) recently introduced bipartisan legislation meant to promote continued research and development (R&D) of energy efficient appliances through Energy Star.

H.R. 4856, the Energy Star Program Integrity Act, is a modest fix to Energy Star that would help appliance manufacturers avoid unfounded litigation that would deter efficiency R&D and participation in Energy Star.

Only appliances that exceed the minimum energy efficiency standards set by the federal government can be branded with the Energy Star logo. Additionally, appliances are verified by a recognized third-party testing facility to ensure strict performance criteria are met. Customers rely on these testing and verification procedures and Energy Star takes them very seriously to ensure their accuracy. Ongoing verification and audits occur to ensure all Energy Star labeled appliances meet the requirements set by statute.

Despite this meticulous process, eligible appliances are occasionally found to be in violation of the Energy Star program and are deemed “disqualified”. Under the current disqualification and enforcement procedures, manufacturers must initiate detailed product control measures and, if deemed appropriate by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), provide reimbursement to consumers. The EPA also maintains an up-to-date list of products that have been disqualified to ensure transparency for the consumer.

But because of a gap in federal law, manufacturers of Energy Star appliances are now being targeted when an appliance is disqualified. This gap allows for private litigation in addition to the disqualification and enforcement findings already overseen by the federal government. In many cases this creates an opportunity for double jeopardy in which a manufacturer has complied with the EPA’s product control measures and even afforded consumers financial compensation, but are then threatened with addition litigation in private court. These suits create millions in legal fees for pioneering manufacturers, while adding no value to the consumer.

As a voluntary program, Energy Star has worked in partnership with manufacturers for decades to push the technological envelope and save consumers money on their energy bills. Manufacturers create more efficient technologies, consumers save on utility bills, and governments see reduction in energy usage. But the costs of defending these litigations have the potential to deter manufacturers from participating in Energy Star. H.R. 4856 would amend the Energy Policy and Conservation Act to protect voluntary Energy Star participation from private litigation.

After introducing the bill, Rep. Latta said, "Across our nation, the Energy Star program has proven to be a successful tool in advancing the development and use of energy efficient technologies... The Energy Star Program Integrity Act is a product of bipartisan discussion and collaboration with impacted stakeholders that balances the program's incentives and agency oversight with consumer protections."

The Alliance could not agree more and we must ensure manufacturers have every possible incentive to develop energy efficient technologies to reduce energy usage in the US.

Policy Assistant Jordan Nichols contributed to this post.