ENERGY STAR for Consumer Electronics Gets a Gold Star

ENERGY STAR® is now recognized by four out of every five persons in the U.S. Due to the successful branding and marketing efforts of this joint EPA and DOE program, the stakes have indeed risen for all parties involved in the development and execution of the program. Two recent reports in Consumer Reports and BusinessWeek with quotes from an esteemed colleague of mine, Dr. David Goldstein, have exposed some real concerns about the credibility and upkeep of the government-sponsored consumer product labeling program. Both articles examined the market of the big energy using appliances, namely refrigerators and clothes washers. Possible industry gaming, whereby product compliance testing is carried out by industry-sponsored test labs, and standards levels that have fallen behind the times leading to high market penetration of ENERGY STAR-labeled brands were among the chief concerns.Image removed.

Despite the critical examination of ENERGY STAR in Consumer Reports and Business Week, on the whole, the program is performing very well. A report released in 2004 by the non-partisan think tank, Resources for the Future, showed that for around $50 million a year, ENERGY STAR was responsible for saving nearly 1 quadrillion Btu per year (that's around 1% of ALL energy used in the U.S.). In terms of cost effectiveness, that's less than 1/5 of a penny for every kilowatt-hour saved, or put in another way, 20 times less than what you're likely paying to use your electricity at home.

I have been engaged in the ENERGY STAR stakeholder vetting process for displays (computer monitors) and computers (including desktops, notebooks, thin-clients, workstations, and game consoles) and can say that I'm quite impressed with the EPA staff and consultants who are leading the discussions ahead of new and improved standards for these products in 2009. EPA has remained on schedule with both product types and this is important for a fast-growing consumer product segment. Overall, ENERGY STAR ain't broke, but with some minor fixes, we hope it will get even better.