Federal Battery Charger Standard Welcome But Falls Short of Fully Charging on Cost Effective Savings

Last week, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a proposed federal energy efficiency standard for battery charger systems. These products and gadgets such as cordless phones and cell phones, laptops, power tools, electric toothbrushes etc use rechargeable batteries to support user mobility and convenience, making our lives easier, more productive and fun.

As with several other efficiency standard rules, including clothes washers and walk-in freezers, progress in setting this standard has been delayed.  Indeed, Congress set a legal deadline requiring DOE to finish this rule by July 2011. We are pleased to see this rule move forward, especially given the large energy and consumer savings opportunity presented by efficiency standards for this product category.

As battery chargers have become ubiquitous in our homes, their electricity use has exploded: American consumers today use more than 1 billion devices with rechargeable batteries that use an amount of electricity equivalent to the output of 9 medium-sized 500-MW power plants.

Unfortunately for consumers who pay the electricity bills, many of the battery-powered products on the market today still use inefficient and outdated charging systems that on average waste two thirds of their charge energy as heat. This wasted electricity represents the equivalent output of 6 medium-sized 500-MW power plants, producing unnecessary nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury and  other harmful air pollutants. These unnecessary NOx emissions alone are equivalent to those emitted by 160,000 vehicles every year.

While NRDC welcomes DOE’s proposal, we are puzzled and disappointed that the proposed rule is significantly weaker than the standard recently passed in California in several charger categories representing approximately 75 percent of products sold in the market today.

We see no reason why DOE levels shouldn't align with those efficiency standards recently set in California. NRDC and other energy efficiency advocates will delve into DOE’s proposal and submit extensive comments to help the agency get the final rule right, just as it has for many other recent standards set for products ranging from furnaces to linear fluorescent lamps.

Americans deserve efficient products that don’t waste our energy, health and money. DOE needs to adopt a federal standard that fully captures cost-effective energy saving opportunities in battery chargers.