After the Earthquake and Before the Hurricane, Friday was a Beautiful Day for Clean Energy: DOE Adopts New Refrigerator Efficiency Standards and a Court Ruling Revives PACE Clean Energy Finance Programs

As we all know, those of us on the East Coast have just suffered through a week of near apocalyptic extreme weather events, with Tuesday’s earthquake rocking the coast from Virginia through New England and Hurricane Irene sweeping through the same territory over the weekend.

But in between these events, Friday turned out to be great weather for clean energy.

The day began with sunny weather as the Department of Energy announced that it had adopted new energy efficiency standards for refrigerators, based on a consensus agreement negotiated by NRDC and other energy efficiency advocates, manufacturers and consumer groups.   As my colleague David Goldstein explained, thanks to these new standards and the three decades worth of national and state efficiency standards that they build on, refrigerators will use just one fifth of the electricity that they used in the 1970s, while the cost of refrigerators has gone down and refrigerator size has increased.  And as my colleague Meg Waltner writes, these new fridge standards have some pretty cool benefits for the electric grid, our pocketbooks and air quality. NRDC’s release on the new standards is here.

And the weather on Friday just kept getting nicer for clean energy.   Later that day, a California federal district court judge issued an important ruling in the ongoing effort to revive PACE energy efficiency and renewable energy financing programs.  These promising programs have been adopted in over twenty states, but last year the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and another federal agency issued directives that froze these programs from moving forward.   The State of California, two California counties (Sonoma and Placer Counties), the City of Palm Desert and the Sierra Club challenged these backdoor rollbacks in federal district court.  Similar challenges were filed by Leon County in Florida, and by the Town of Babylon on Long Island and NRDC in New York.  (NRDC’s and Babylon’s challenges were dismissed recently, and we’ve appealed those rulings). In Friday’s ruling, the district court judge in the California cases not only largely denied a motion to dismiss brought by FHFA but also orders FHFA to conduct a public notice and comment rulemaking on its PACE directives to allow the public, for the first time, to weigh in on why the FHFA’s hasty actions to halt PACE efficiency programs were unsupported by fact, policy and law and should be swiftly reversed.  Congratulations to California Attorney General Kamala Harris and to all the California plaintiffs for a great ruling that opens the door to a revival of PACE programs nationwide.  PACE lives!

All in all, Friday was a good day for clean energy.