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U.S. Dept. of Energy to Set New Efficiency Standards

U.S. Department of Energy

A recent agreement aims to improve the energy efficiency of major electrical appliances across the nation. In an agreement with an 11-member coalition including Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut, the U.S. Department of Energy has committed to a schedule to update its standards for electrical equipment. The agreement requires the department to set new, national standards for walk-in coolers and freezers, metal halide lamps, commercial refrigeration equipment, and electric motors. One member of the coalition is Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Deputy Commissioner for Energy Katie Dykes says this initiative was highlighted in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan in June.

“It will really level the playing field so that products that have high operating energy costs will be phased out and there will really be an incentive developed to reward companies that develop innovative new products that have better energy performance," said Dykes.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that the stricter standards could reduce electric consumption by an estimated 44 terawatt-hours per year by 2035, an amount equivalent to the energy used by about 3.8 million homes annually. Dykes says the U.S. Department of Energy will do a cost analysis and seek public input on how expensive it will be to develop new products to meet the updated standards.

“While there may be an increased cost for the product itself there are also corresponding reductions in the cost of operating the product," she said. "So when you balance that equation out we see that the net result is tremendous savings for consumers.”

John Kelly is the President of Kelly’s Package Store in Dalton. He says his liquor and beer store, which houses walk-in coolers, wouldn’t need new appliances, but says the costs might be hard to swallow for businesses that do.

“In today’s economy where nobody’s doing well in Berkshire County, you’d have to put in a window for people to phase in that type of expense," said Kelly.

The council estimates consumers and businesses nationwide could save $156 million per month and $3.8 billion annually in energy costs by 2035. The total energy savings by 2035 would be enough to supply all of the energy needs in the United States for three weeks.

The new standards would also slash air pollution, reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide by more than 26 million metric tons annually, equaling the output of six coal fired power plants. Nitrogen oxides would be reduced by more than 19,000 metric tons and sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, would be cut by 37,500 metric tons.

The DOE is required by Congress to review energy efficiency standards for a wide range of appliances under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act passed in 1975 in response to the 1973 oil crisis. The department’s deadline for walk-in coolers and freezers as well as metal halide lamps was 18 months ago. The deadline for commercial refrigerators and electric pumps ended seven months ago.

“It’s critical the DOE stay on track and issue these in a timely manner," said Dykes.

Dykes says the DOE has proposed a new standard for metal halide lamps which is ahead of schedule. The department will propose new rules for walk-in coolers and commercial refrigeration equipment by the end of the month. Standards for electric motors will be proposed in November. Final rulings will begin in January.

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