Reducing Energy Use: The Role of Appliance Standards

Speakers (l-r): Steven Nadel, Randall B. Moorhead, Jeffrey Harris, Joshua Johnson, and Allen Stayman

Reducing Energy Use: The Role of Appliance Standards

Thursday, April 15, 2010
2:00 - 3:30 p.m.
385 Russell Senate Office Building

On April 15, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a briefing on how appliance and equipment efficiency standards affect consumers, economic competitiveness, and the environment. Although the Environmental Protection Agency’s voluntary labeling program known as ENERGY STAR has helped drive the market for highly efficient appliances, the role of minimum efficiency standards for many household and commercial products is underappreciated. Appliance standards currently under development by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) could slash U.S. electricity use by over 1.9 trillion kilowatt hours by 2030 while saving consumers and businesses more than $123 billion, according to a recent report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP).

This briefing examined appliance standards legislation pending before the Congress and program changes under consideration by DOE, as well as the potential economic and environmental impacts. Speakers also addressed the relationship among standards, labeling, incentives, and R&D, and explained why Thomas Edison’s light bulb will soon be obsolete. Speakers for this event included:

  • Steven Nadel, Executive Director, American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
    Presentation (pdf format)
  • Randall B. Moorhead, Vice President, Government Affairs, Philips Electronics North America Corp.
  • Jeffrey Harris, Vice President, Programs, Alliance to Save Energy
    Presentation (pdf format)
  • Joshua Johnson, Professional Staff, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • Allen Stayman, Professional Staff, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Click below to download the following handouts:
U.S. DOE Appliance Standards Rulemakings Schedule - 2010
Executive Summary of Ka-BOOM! The Power of Appliance Standards: Opportunities for New Federal Appliance and Equipment Standards by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

Audio recording of the briefing (mp3)

Click video to play:

Highlights from Speaker Presentations

  • Federal appliance standards replace the previous patchwork of state standards while cost effectively saving substantial energy and addressing major market barriers.
  • By “raising the floor”, minimum standards drive the market for energy efficient products; complementary policies such as rebates and R&D further “pull the market” toward greater efficiency.
  • There are currently 45 federal appliance standards, with six additional standards pending under the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) and the American Clean Energy Leadership Act (S. 1462) passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The six pending standards are for portable lighting fixtures, outdoor lighting fixtures, commercial furnaces, drinking water dispensers, portable electric spas, and hot-food holding cabinets.
  • Projected U.S. electricity use in 2010 will be 273 terawatt-hours (TWh), or seven percent, lower than it would have been without existing standards. In 2020, the savings will grow to a projected 498 TWh, or 11.5 percent.
  • New standards under review are projected to reduce appliance electricity use by 177 TWh (3.7 percent) and greenhouse gas emissions by 168 million metric tons (2.7 percent) in 2030.
  • Congress raised the efficiency standards for light bulbs, which effectively requires newly manufactured and imported light bulbs to produce more lumens per watt, in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (P.L. 110-140).
  • The incandescent light bulb invented by Thomas Edison converts only five percent of the energy it consumes into light, and the rest into heat. Lighting manufacturers now offer more efficient alternatives, including halogen incandescents, compact fluorescents (CFL) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) doubled the U.S. Department of Energy’s budget for appliance standards in FY 2010-11. After years of missed deadlines, DOE is currently on track to finalize 20+ rulemakings.
  • Canada, Australia, Korea, China, as well as members of the EU are also aggressively developing energy efficiency standards.
  • Within the appliance industry there is still a need for:
    • Greater consumer understanding and use of labels
    • “Multiple metric” standards (e.g. grid-connected)
    • Efficiency standards specific to new construction
    • Progressive efficiency standards (requiring higher efficiency standards for larger products that use more energy)


Minimum national efficiency standards were first established by the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-12) and apply to a wide range of new products sold in the United States. The law has been amended since then to raise efficiency requirements and cover additional products. Energy and climate legislation now pending in Congress would further update the standards. Existing standards will avert the need to build 186 large (400MW) coal-fired power plants nationally by 2030 and the potential savings from new standards could avert the need for an additional 63 power plants, according to ASAP.

For more information, contact Ellen Vaughan at (202) 662-1893 or evaughan [at]

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