November 8, 2019
Department of Energy Appliance and Equipment Standards
Congress continues to consider the extent and effectiveness
of energy efficiency standards. One focus is energy
efficiency standards for appliances and equipment.
The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Appliance and
Equipment Standards Program sets minimum energy
efficiency standards for approximately 60 product
categories. The program was authorized in 1975 by the
Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA, P.L. 94-163,
42 U.S.C. §§6291–6317). Congress has amended EPCA
multiple times, with the significant legislative action related
to energy efficiency listed in Table 1. Title III of EPCA, as
amended, includes minimum efficiency standards for
consumer products and certain industrial equipment.
Table 1. Chronology of Significant Legislative Action
for the Appliance and Equipment Standards Program
December 22, 1975
Energy Policy and Conservation Act
November 9, 1978
National Energy Conservation Policy
Act (P.L. 95-619)
March 17, 1987
National Appliance Energy
Conservation Act of 1987 (P.L. 10012)
June 28, 1988
National Appliance Energy
Conservation Amendments of 1988
October 24, 1992
Energy Policy Act of 1992 (P.L. 102486)
August 8, 2005
Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT
2005) (P.L. 109-58)
December 19, 2007
Energy Independence and Security Act
of 2007 (EISA 2007) (P.L. 110-140)
December 18, 2012
American Energy Manufacturing
Technical Corrections Act (P.L. 112210)
Source: Adapted from DOE, https://energy.gov/eere/buildings/
Notes: This is not an exhaustive list of laws that amended the
appliance and equipment standards program.
Covered Products and Covered
Energy conservation standards are applicable to covered
products and covered equipment as specified in EPCA.
Covered products are those consumer products that are
listed in 42 U.S.C. §6292(a) and include refrigerators,
kitchen ranges and ovens, water heaters, dishwashers,
clothes washers and dryers, television sets, general service
incandescent lamps, and showerheads. The Secretary may
classify additional consumer products as covered products
if necessary and the average annual per-household energy
use by such product is likely to exceed 100 kilowatt-hours
per year (42 U.S.C. §6292(b)).
Covered equipment includes industrial equipment that is
listed in 42 U.S.C. §6311(1). Specified equipment includes
electric motors and pumps, commercial refrigerators,
automatic commercial ice makers, walk-in freezers, and
commercial clothes washers. If necessary, the Secretary
also may include component parts of consumer products as
industrial equipment and any other type of industrial
equipment as covered equipment (42 U.S.C. §6312).
Congress specified test procedures for certain products (42
U.S.C. §6293) and equipment (42 U.S.C. §6314) and
authorized DOE to prescribe test procedures. DOE is
required to review test procedures for covered products and
equipment at least once every seven years.
Energy Efficiency Standards
DOE is required to review energy efficiency standards of
covered products (42 U.S.C. §6295(m)(1)) and covered
equipment (42 U.S.C. §6313(a)(6)(C))) no later than six
years after issuance of a final rule. Within this timeframe,
DOE is required to either publish a determination that a
standard does not need amending or a notice of proposed
rulemaking (NOPR) including a new proposed standard.
New standards must result in significant conservation of
energy, be technologically feasible, and be economically
justified. “Economically justified” typically includes the
economic impact of the standard on the manufacturers and
consumers, the savings in operating costs throughout the
life of the product, and the total projected amount of energy
savings likely to result from the standard.
A new or amended standard may not increase the maximum
allowable energy use (or water use, as appropriate), or
decrease the maximum required energy efficiency of a
covered product (42 U.S.C. §6295(o)) or covered
equipment (42 U.S.C. §6313(a)(6)(B)(iii)).
Department of Energy Appliance and Equipment Standards Program
Standards Development Process
The rulemaking process for developing and revising
standards typically takes about three years to complete and
consists of four phases: framework, preliminary analysis,
NOPR, and issuance of a final rule.
DOE makes documents available and seeks comments
through all phases until issuance of a final rule. For the
framework, preliminary analysis, and NOPR phases, DOE
solicits public comment and often holds public meetings
that may allow for remote participation. In the framework
phase, DOE presents the approach and legal authority for
the process and poses questions to stakeholders. The
preliminary analysis phase incorporates available
information and presents initial determinations to inform
the proposed rule. The framework phase and preliminary
analysis phase are not required by statute. Once DOE issues
a final rule, the rule typically requires compliance from
manufacturers within 3 to 5 years.
Variations to Rulemaking Process
There are variations to the above rulemaking process. DOE
may start the process at the preliminary analysis phase or
NOPR phase if it has the necessary data and information to
conduct its analysis. In lieu of the rulemaking process, DOE
may publish a direct final rule that establishes energy
conservation standards submitted jointly by stakeholders
that “are fairly representative of relevant points of view”
(42 U.S.C. §6295(p)(4)).
DOE is authorized to grant a waiver of federal preemption
for “unusual and compelling State or local energy or water
interests” (42 U.S.C. §6297).
DOE Proposed Changes to Rulemaking
On February 13, 2019, DOE proposed changes to the
rulemaking procedures for standards and test procedures, or
“Process Rule.” (84 Federal Register (FR) 3910) For
standards, DOE would establish a “threshold” for energysaving that must be met to update or create a standard,
among other changes. The energy-saving “threshold” would
require a standard to save 0.5 quadrillion Btu (quads) over
30 years or to save 10% of the total site energy used by a
product or equipment type. According to DOE, of the 57
product/equipment standards that DOE set, the average
national site energy savings is 0.96 quad, and the average
percent reduction in national site energy use is 13%. Thirtytwo of the 57 standards set by DOE would meet one of the
proposed threshold conditions. The proposed rule would
also add a requirement that test procedures be established at
least 180 days before a related standard.
DOE also proposed changes to test procedures. DOE would
be required to adopt industry standards for test
procedures—without modification—unless such standards
would be “unduly burdensome” or would not produce
results that reflect the energy efficiency, energy use, and
estimated operating costs of a product during average use.
Compliance and Enforcement
On May 1, 2019, DOE proposed changes to the test
procedure interim waiver process (84 FR 18414). If
adopted, the proposed rule would require DOE to respond
in writing to an applicant (typically a manufacturer) within
30 days. If DOE does not respond within the 30 days, the
interim waiver request would be considered granted, and
would remain in effect until a decision is published or until
DOE publishes a new or amended test procedure.
DOE requires manufacturers of covered products and
equipment to submit a certification report of energy
performance before a basic model is distributed in
commerce, and annually thereafter. DOE conducts selected
testing through third-party laboratories to verify energy
On September 5, 2019, DOE withdrew revised definitions
pertaining to light bulbs that were to go into effect on
January 1, 2020 (84 FR 46830). These definitions would
have extended energy efficiency standards to a broader set
of light bulbs (82 FR 6826, January 19, 2017).
In addition to these variations, small manufacturers, as
defined in 42 U.S.C §6295(t), may apply for a temporary
exemption of no more than 24 months after the effective
date of the rule. The temporary exemption may apply to all
or part of an energy conservation standard.
DOE also engages in enforcement activities. Conservation
standards cases focus on manufacturers that distribute
products in the United States that, according to DOE, do not
meet required energy standards. Compliance certification
cases focus on manufacturers that either have submitted
invalid compliance certifications or have not certified that
the products have been tested and meet the applicable
energy conservation standards.
Other federal agencies also have roles in energy efficiency
enforcement. The Environmental Protection Agency
enforces compliance with product specifications under the
ENERGY STAR program. The Federal Trade Commission
enforces requirements that the EnergyGuide label
represents the performance of appliances.
Federal energy conservation standards, test procedures, and
label requirements generally supersede state requirements.
Issues for Congress
Congress is evaluating the potential effects of proposed
changes to DOE’s Appliance and Equipment Standards
Program. In addition, Congress is addressing standards
through legislation. The House Energy and Commerce
Committee held a hearing on March 7, 2019, regarding
DOE’s missed statutory deadlines for updating 16 appliance
standards. DOE’s proposed rulemaking changes, if
implemented, could result in fewer updates to standards as
updates would depend upon whether an energy-saving
threshold would be met. Proposed changes to the test
procedure interim waiver process could provide flexibility
for manufacturers but could also result in slower adoption
of standards. In the 116th Congress, H.R. 105 would repeal
energy conservation standards and rescind the authority for
DOE and states to set energy conservation standards.
Corrie E. Clark, Analyst in Energy Policy
Department of Energy Appliance and Equipment Standards Program
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