Updated May 10, 2018
ENERGY STAR Program
ENERGY STAR® is an internationally recognized
voluntary labeling program for energy-efficient products,
homes, buildings, and manufacturing plants that is managed
jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The intended
purposes of the program are to reduce energy consumption;
realize cost savings for citizens on their utility bills; and
reduce emissions of pollutants—including greenhouse
gases (GHGs)—from electric power production, and limit
associated health and environmental impacts through nonregulatory means. According to EPA, in 2014 the program
saved consumers $34 billion on annual utility bills and
avoided 300 million metric tons of GHGs. Issues of
possible consideration for 115th Congress involve the
program’s appropriations, organization, and authorizations.
Appropriations: The President’s FY2019 budget request
includes a proposal to convert the ENERGY STAR
program to a fee-funded program in FY2019 with an
upfront FY2019 appropriation of $46 million. The intent
of the fee collection would be to provide funding to
replace “to the extent allowable” the upfront
appropriation to maintain the program.
Organization: In the explanatory statements for EPA and
DOE of the FY2018 omnibus (P.L. 115-141, Division G
and Division D, respectively), the agencies are directed
to review the 2009 Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU), which shifted some functions related to home
appliance products from DOE to EPA, and to report to
Congress on whether the expected efficiencies for home
appliance products have been achieved.
Authorizations: Legislation proposed in the 115
lead agency for ENERGY STAR and DOE as the lead
agency for the National Building Rating program.
Generally, EPA sets performance levels for ENERGY
STAR products and buildings, and DOE provides technical
support, including the development of testing procedures
and metrics for performance and program monitoring.
Certain actions of note in ENERGY STAR history are
highlighted in Table 1, including two Government
Accountability Office (GAO) reports that examined various
aspects of the program’s voluntary approach.
Table 1. Chronology of Selected Actions Related to
the ENERGY STAR Program
EPA establishes ENERGY STAR under the authority
of the Clean Air Act, Section 103(g)
First international agreement for ENERGY STAR
established with Japan regarding qualified office
EPA and DOE issue MOC on Energy Efficient,
Environmentally Beneficial Buildings
United States and Canada agree to partner on
United States and European Union (EU) agree to
partner on ENERGY STAR
Energy Policy Act, Section 131 formally codifies the
ENERGY STAR program within EPA and DOE
United States and EU enter into an agreement on
the Coordination of Energy-Efficient Labelling
Programs for Office Equipment
EPA and DOE issue MOU on Improving the Energy
Efficiency of Products and Buildings
GAO-10-470, ENERGY STAR Program: Covert Testing
Shows the ENERGY STAR Program Certification Process
is Vulnerable to Fraud and Abuse
GAO-11-888, ENERGY STAR: Providing Opportunities
for Additional Review of EPA’s Decisions Could
Strengthen the Program
Update of the EU and U.S. agreement
The EU-U.S. ENERGY STAR agreement expired on
February 20, 2018
Congress includes provisions to codify third-party
certification and direct EPA to revise the certification
requirements for certain program partners.
History and Development
The ENERGY STAR program portfolio expanded over
time. EPA established ENERGY STAR in 1992 under the
authority of the Clean Air Act, Section 103(g). Initially,
EPA introduced the ENERGY STAR label for computers
and monitors. Since 1992, EPA has expanded the number
of product categories to more than 70. In 1995, ENERGY
STAR was expanded to include labeling for buildings and
new homes. The program added manufacturing facilities in
2006. In 2007, manufactured homes were incorporated.
DOE’s role with ENERGY STAR was established through
a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) with EPA in 1996.
Congress codified the program and this relationship in the
Energy Policy Act of 2005 (P.L. 109-58, §131). The most
recent MOU between EPA and DOE identifies EPA as the
Source: Clean Air Act (P.L. 101-549); EPA 2012, ENERGY STAR:
Celebrating 20 Years; Energy Policy Act (P.L. 109-58); GAO-10-470;
GAO-11-888; MOU (2009); MOC (1996); Agreements between
United States and the EU.
Notes: MOC is Memorandum of Cooperation; MOU is
Memorandum of Understanding.
ENERGY STAR Program
ENERGY STAR supports voluntary partnerships with
manufacturers, retailers, and organizations committed to
improving energy efficiency. Partners are provided access
to seminars and networking events, recognition for
achievement, and marketing materials. ENERGY STAR
establishes voluntary certification requirements for
products, buildings, and industrial facilities. Specifications
are based upon energy efficiency, energy savings, product
features, and performance as demanded by consumers. If
the cost is more than conventional products, purchasers of
certified products are expected to recoup their investment
within a reasonable period of time. Product energy
consumption must also be measurable and verifiable with
testing. Once ENERGY STAR products meet 50% market
share or higher in a category, the product specifications are
typically reviewed by EPA.
ENERGY STAR is recognized as an international standard
for energy-efficient products. EPA entered into agreements
with foreign governments including Canada, the European
Union (EU), the European Free Trade Association, Japan,
Switzerland, and Taiwan to promote specific ENERGY
STAR product categories in their markets. These
agreements are intended to unify voluntary energy efficient
labeling programs and facilitate partner participation
through a single set of energy efficiency qualifications.
International programs coordinate with ENERGY STAR on
the labeling of office equipment and the creation of
consistent targets for manufacturers. In the case of Canada,
Natural Resources Canada administers the ENERGY STAR
program directly through an agreement with EPA and DOE.
The ENERGY STAR label (Figure 1) is affixed to
products, commercial buildings, industrial plants, and new
homes that use less energy but perform at least as well as
standard models. Through labeling, consumers can quickly
be informed about available energy-efficient product
options when making purchasing decisions.
Figure 1. ENERGY STAR Promotional Mark
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ENERGY STAR
In 2010, GAO identified vulnerabilities within the selfcertification requirements of ENERGY STAR (GAO-10470). In response to these findings, since 2011, ENERGY
STAR has required products to be third-party certified and
qualification tested in an EPA-recognized laboratory.
The certified laboratories are required to conduct annual
verification testing. A percentage of certified models in a
product category are tested. At least half of the models that
undergo testing are to be randomly selected. The remainder
may be selected according other factors, including prior
testing failures, high sales volumes, referrals from EPA or
other parties such as consumer groups, or requests to verify
the performance of a competitor’s product. The verification
testing program is manufacturer-funded.
DOE implements a complementary testing program that
does not test randomly. Instead, DOE targets products for
testing based on factors including a history of failing to
meet ENERGY STAR program requirements, new
technologies, and categories with known performance
issues. DOE’s verification testing is agency-funded.
According to GAO, combined appropriations for ENERGY
STAR averaged $58 million annually between FY2007 and
FY2011 for both EPA and DOE. During that period, EPA
received approximately 87% of the total appropriations,
with an average of $50 million. More recently, ENERGY
STAR funding has decreased. The FY2017 enacted level
for EPA was $42 million, according to the agency.
The President’s FY2018 budget request proposed to
eliminate the ENERGY STAR program and explore options
to transfer the program to non-governmental entities. The
FY2018 omnibus (see P.L. 115-141, Division G, Title II,
Explanatory Statement) maintains funding for ENERGY
STAR at the FY2017 level.
For FY2019, the Administration requests an upfront
appropriation of $46 million that would support the
program during rulemaking and development—pending
authority for a proposed fee collection system. The proposal
would allow EPA to collect fees from program participants
and deposit collections into the general fund.
ENERGY STAR Legislation in the 115th
There are a number of issues related to ENERGY STAR for
consideration in the 115th Congress. Congress may consider
the President’s request for authorization of a fee-based
program. Congress may also consider the modifying roles
and responsibilities between EPA and DOE in legislation.
ENERGY STAR bills in the 115th Congress include:
S. 385, H.R. 1443, and S. 1460 would direct DOE to
revise third-party certification requirements for program
partners that have been in compliance for 18 months.
H.R. 515 would authorize the Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD) to provide assistance
for ENERGY STAR-qualified manufactured or modular
H.R. 1682 would clarify that no warranty is provided
through participation in the ENERGY STAR Program.
Corrie E. Clark, Analyst in Energy Policy
ENERGY STAR Program
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