Beverage Vending Machines Become Energy Sippers

DOE Meets Obama’s Pledge for Five New Energy Standards by August

Washington, D.C. (August 31, 2009) – The average energy use of the most common new cold beverage vending machines would be cut by about 42 percent according to new national minimum standards published today by the U.S. Department of Energy. Today’s move fulfills President Obama’s pledge to complete five new efficiency standards by August, and according to the DOE, these standards will save enough electricity to meet the needs of about 1.4 million typical U.S. homes for one year and will save vending machine property owners nearly $500 million over thirty years.

“With roughly 3 million beverage vending machines in the U.S., or 1 for every 100 Americans, a strong national standard means real savings for all the universities, park districts, hotels, and other institutions and businesses that pay the electric bills for these machines,” said Noah Horowitz, Senior Scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “With these standards, we are assured that all new soda vending machines will be energy sippers and not the energy guzzlers of old.”

These standards build on a series of improvements in vending machine efficiency achieved over the past decade. According to Horowitz, who pioneered research into vending machine energy use, many machines used as much as 3,000 to 5,000 kilowatt-hours per year in the mid-1990s. With the new standards, per unit energy use will be no more than about 1,400 to 1,800 kilowatt-hours per year. Once the new standards take effect in three years, typical new machines will save well over $100 per year, with the savings potential being much greater for larger machines and those in warm climates.

“The President asked for action and DOE delivered,” said Andrew deLaski, Executive Director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). “The next step, as directed by the President, is for DOE to meet or beat the legal deadlines for the other twenty-three standards due this term and make sure that each new standard is as strong as possible.”

President Obama signed a memorandum on February 5th, directing DOE to complete five new standards by August and to meet or beat all legal deadlines for standards due later. Altogether, about two dozen new energy efficiency standards are due during the current presidential term. According to estimates by ASAP and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the combined annual savings from strong new standards for these products could tally up to nearly 4 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2030 and carbon dioxide emission reductions of 158 million metric tons, equivalent to the output of 63 coal-fired power plants.

One key to large savings for many products is smart controls technologies. For example, even more savings could be achieved for vending machines if DOE had required controls that dim or shut off machine lighting during extended periods of non-use. But, during the previous administration, DOE decided it lacked authority to include more than one efficiency requirement for any one product (e.g., a maximum daily energy use and a controls requirement), so the agency did not even evaluate the costs and benefits of controls.

Though smart controls are not a part of the new vending machines standards, there is an opportunity to incorporate them into the standards for the nearly two dozen additional products that will be considered by the Obama Administration.  

“It doesn’t make sense in this day and age to ignore affordable, energy-saving technology. It’s like choosing not to use an axle when you have the wheel,” said Jennifer Amann, Buildings Program Director at ACEEE. “DOE should revisit the Bush administration view that it cannot set multi-metric standards and open the door for savings from controls technology and multi-part standards.” 

Action on the pending climate and energy legislation would make DOE authority for multi-component standards clear. Section 213(a) of the Waxman-Markey bill specifies that DOE can include more than one efficiency requirement for any given product.

Altogether, according to DOE, the proposed new beverage machine standards could save about 16 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity over 30 years (or 0.16 quad of primary energy). This is enough electricity to meet the needs of about 1.4 million typical U.S. homes for one year. The standards would save vending machine property owners nearly $500 million over thirty years. The standards would, cumulatively over thirty years, eliminate nearly 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions (or roughly the amount emitted by two million typical cars in a year). These carbon dioxide emission reductions, according to DOE, are worth as much as another $543 million.

While vending machines are one of the smaller standards ranked by energy savings, it will take strong standards for each of the two dozen products to meet ambitious energy savings goals. The next big potential energy-saver among the pending DOE standards will cover residential water heaters.