Weakening Energy Star

Is the ENERGY STAR Regulatory Improvement Act Really an Improvement?

The Consumer Electric Council (CES) has come out in support of a bill that would revise the certification requirements for Energy Star labeling of consumer, home, and office electronic products for program partners that have complied with all requirements of the program for a period of at least 18 months. 

For companies that make many similar products, such as televisions in different sizes, or washing machines with slight variations in features, color or size, such a modification could speed the process of getting to market.

The Energy Star program, much like UL -- the Underwriter’s Laboratory -- verifies that the claims of manufacturers are true. While the UL is mainly concerned with safety, Energy Star focuses on the efficiency of products, as well as providing accurate information to consumers about the probable energy use over a period of time.

The value of Senator Womack’s bill somewhat rests with trust: a major manufacturer that values their brand are not likely to make false claims, while other manufacturers could use the year and a half window to comply with regulations in order to put products on the market that do not meet stated specifications. And another concern would be the efficiency of regulating products imported from overseas.

Since the law in no way prohibits the EPA from requiring such 3rdparty verification, the effectiveness of the law would be based on who has the most resources: the EPA on enforcing regulations or manufacturers in avoiding them. Should abuse from the producer side become wide spread, the Energy Star reputation as a reliable source of energy information could be tarnished.

For the latter reason, this magazine does not support Mr.Steve Womack’s  ENERGY STAR Regulatory Improvement Act, HR175, 114th Congress.

The following statement is attributed to Douglas Johnson, vice president, technology policy, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, regarding the reintroduction of the ENERGY STAR Regulatory Improvement Act by Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), legislation that would provide an alternate to the ENERGY STAR program’s third-party certification requirement for consumer electronics (CE) manufacturers with a demonstrated track record of compliance:
“We commend Representative Womack for reintroducing this important bill, which recognizes that a costly, time-consuming, one-size-fits-all approach to the ENERGY STAR program isn’t the most effective means of improving energy efficiency. Thanks to his thoughtful legislation, both small and large companies with a demonstrated track record of compliance could be relieved of the cost burdens and time delays created by unnecessary, pre-market requirements from the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The consumer electronics industry now accounts for more than half the overall savings achieved under the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program for consumer products. Third-party certification may work well for certain product categories or industries covered by ENERGY STAR, but not for a CE sector with intense market pressures, short time-to-market requirements and a lightning-fast pace of innovation. Additionally, the CE industry already has a self-certification system that has been successful not only in the context of ENERGY STAR, but also in other federal regulatory programs.
“Representative Womack’s bill strikes the right balance between maintaining EPA’s use of third-party certification and recognizing opportunities to provide relief where such burdensome mandates are not needed or justified.”
Even though there are more consumer electronics in U.S. homes than ever, those devices now account for a lower percentage of electricity usage per household, according to the CEA study Energy Consumption of Consumer Electronics in U.S. Homes in 2013.


About CEA

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) is the technology trade association representing the $223 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. More than 2,000 companies enjoy the benefits of CEA membership, including legislative and regulatory advocacy, market research, technical training and education, industry promotion, standards development and the fostering of business and strategic relationships. CEA also owns and produces the International CES – The Global Stage for Innovation. All profits from CES are reinvested into CEA’s industry services. Find CEA online at CE.orgDeclareInnovation.com and through social media.