DOE Illegally Brings Efficiency Standards Program to a “Grinding Halt” at Worst Possible Time

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has brought its energy efficiency standards program for appliances and equipment “to a grinding halt and is trying to put it in reverse” under the Trump administration even though efficiency is America’s best tool against climate change, lowers customer bills, and strengthens the electric grid, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Senior Director Kit Kennedy told Congress today.

In testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy, Kennedy said Congress “should be gravely concerned that DOE’s illegal delays and inaction, which, combined with the agency’s actions to halt or destroy the program entirely, will have consequences stretching far beyond this administration.” 

“Fighting climate change without a robust efficiency standards program is like trying to finish a puzzle with missing pieces: it's harder, it takes longer, and at the end, it’s impossible. That’s not a risk we can afford to take,” Kennedy, a senior director of NRDC’s Climate and Clean Energy Program, testified at the hearing on “Wasted Energy: DOE's Inaction on Efficiency Standards and Its Impact on Consumers and the Climate.” 

Kennedy noted the DOE has not originated a single new or updated energy efficiency standard—or even released any for consideration—during the first two years of the Trump administration (other than a few of the standards developed at the end of the Obama administration). As of the end of last month, DOE had missed legal deadlines for updating 16 product standards, representing millions of lost consumer savings. Twelve additional statutorily required deadlines between now and January 2021 are also at risk, she said. Failure to update standards on the schedule required by law means consumers could miss out on $65 billion in annual energy bill savings.

“DOE has clear legal deadlines to issue and revise appliance energy efficiency standards and time and time again the current administration has failed to meet them,” she noted.

Instead, she told the subcommittee, the DOE is focusing on unnecessary changes that will undermine the program and threaten its impact, such as rolling back lighting standards signed into law by George W. Bush and changing the process by which it sets all standards.

“Every inefficient piece of equipment that is installed today helps to lock in a higher level of carbon pollution for decades to come. The more we delay, the harder it will be to reverse course,” Kennedy warned.

She noted that standards already in place are, on average, saving each U.S. household $500 annually and there is significant potential to find more efficiency savings with a robust efficiency standards program.

Kennedy’s written testimony and the link to the livestreamed hearing can be found here. Her related blog is here. Background on the DOE’s proposed rollback on lighting and also its proposed changes to its Process Rule for establishing efficiency standards can be found here.


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