U.S. Appeals Court Upholds Higher Air Conditioner Energy Efficiency – Standard Will Save Consumers $1.1 Billion a Year, Says Alliance to Save Energy

Release Date: Tuesday, January 13, 2004

"Today's federal appeals court decision upholding a higher minimum air conditioner energy-efficiency standard is a great victory for consumers, the environment, and national security,” said Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan. The decision was handed down in New York by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. By 2020, the higher energy-efficiency standard for central air conditioning systems is expected to cut consumer electricity bills by $1.1 billion a year.

The court's decision also will improve the reliability of the U.S. national electric grid, since air conditioning defines peak electrical demand for most of the nation and can reach 70 percent of peak demand in hotter states such as Texas. “The higher standard is projected to significantly lower electricity demand during peak usage times, thus avoiding the need to construct as many as 48 new power plants over the next 16 years and avoiding emission of roughly 2.5 million tons of carbon every year,” Callahan commented.

The court decision means that the U.S. Department of Energy now must enforce an efficiency standard, known as SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) 13, which represents a 10 percent increase over the standard currently in force (SEER 12). Today's important victory was the result of a lawsuit filed by the National Resources Defense Council and other parties including 10 states, consumer groups, and state utility regulators.

Enforcement of the higher SEER 13 standard was pursued in the legislative as well as the judicial arena. Of note, Alliance Chair Sen. Byron Dorgan (R-N.D.) and Vice-Chair Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) spearheaded an effort to increase the air conditioner standard to SEER 13 during last year's debate on comprehensive energy legislation. They were joined in their important advocacy by the other congressional members of the Alliance Board, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.).