U.S. Department of Energy Must Implement Delayed Efficiency Standards


Updating 20 overdue standards would prevent millions of tons of carbon emissions


Alexandria Trimble, Earthjustice, atrimble@earthjustice.org


Emily Deanne, NRDC, edeanne@nrdc.org

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has agreed to review energy efficiency standards for 20 categories of consumer and commercial appliances and equipment, as part of a settlement approved today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Updating the 20 overdue standards would mean huge savings for U.S. consumers and businesses, approximately $650 billion in cumulative utility bill savings through 2050. This action will also prevent between 970 and over 1800 million metric tons of carbon emissions over the same period according to an analysis by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

NRDC along with Public Citizen (represented by attorneys at NRDC), Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, Consumer Federation of America, the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants (MUPHT) (with Earthjustice as their counsel), and over a dozen states and cities, sued DOE in 2020 for failing to review and update the overdue energy efficiency standards, including standards for large energy users like refrigerators and water heaters.

“This settlement is a triumph for consumers and the environment. It will jumpstart DOE review of efficiency standards poised to save $650 billion in utility bills and avoid the release of, at least, nearly a billion metric tons of climate-warming carbon pollution by 2050,” said Joe Vukovich, NRDC energy efficiency advocate. “Under the Trump administration, DOE completely abdicated its duty to review and update energy efficiency standards for the appliances we use every day. Today, the court set us back on track to reap the significant consumer, economic, and environmental benefits of updated energy-efficiency standards.”

“Setting strong efficiency standards on the products we use most often helps to achieve the cost-effective reductions in energy use and power plant emissions that we sorely need to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” said Timothy Ballo, senior attorney at Earthjustice. “We’re happy to see the Department of Energy get back on track to evaluate standards on everyday products that make a huge impact on our emissions reductions.”

“With inflation high and the planet cooking, America desperately needs updated and upgraded energy efficiency standards. As the settlement reflects, it is time for the Department of Energy to get to work and issue the new efficiency rules that already should have been finalized,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

“This agreement is essential for catching up on missed deadlines as quickly as possible in order for the incredible consumer, economic, public health and environmental benefits of updated standards to be realized,” said Richard Eckman, an Energy Advocate at the Consumer Federation of America. “Now more than ever, consumers can use the additional pocketbook savings that updated efficiency standards will provide in the billions annually thanks to the increased energy efficiency of common household appliances. The agreement is also crucial in order to prevent millions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change from being emitted. We’re looking forward to working with DOE in moving forward with updates to appliance efficiency standards.”

“The technology exists to make consumer products and commercial equipment incredibly energy efficient, and it is the responsibility of DOE to hold manufacturers accountable to meeting the highest possible standards,” said Jessica Tritsch, building electrification campaign director, Sierra Club. “This settlement will help us meet climate goals but also help American families save money on their energy bills and create sustainable manufacturing jobs for the future. The strongest possible energy efficiency standards will also ensure Americans keep their lights on and their heat or air conditioning on when the weather turns extreme by not overtaxing our electrical system. After all, heat waves and strong storms are only getting more common in the face of climate change — a crisis we must do everything we can to address with all the tools we have at our disposal.”

“This agreement will conserve energy and save consumers money when they use everyday appliances,” said Howard Crystal, legal director, Center for Biological Diversity’s Energy Justice Program. “Energy efficiency is critical to addressing the climate emergency and ensuring a livable planet, even if it doesn’t get as much attention as other efforts. We’re pleased the department will finally move forward with these commonsense standards.”

“We applaud this settlement, which will save huge amounts of energy and keep money in the pockets of consumers across America, including the 85,000 low-income public housing tenants Mass Union represents,” said Jack Cooper, executive director, Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants.

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