Local News

DOE Promises To Improve Household Appliance Energy Efficiency

Posted November 13, 2006 9:28 a.m. EST

— The Energy Department has agreed to boost energy-efficiency requirements for nearly two dozen household appliances and equipment from dishwashers to fluorescent lamps as part of a court settlement after years of inaction.

The new standards will be phased in over the next five years.

The agreement, filed in U.S. District Court in New York and announced Monday, settles a lawsuit filed last year by environmental groups; 15 states, including North Carolina, and the City of New York because of delays in improving federal appliance efficiency requirements.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Copper hailed the agreement.

“Consumers don’t need power hungry appliances adding to their high energy bills,” Cooper said in a statement. “This is a smart settlement that will save money and help the environment.”

The agreement will set new standards for several types of appliances, including ovens, dishwashers, water heaters and air conditioners.

Kit Kennedy, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which was among those who brought the lawsuit, called the agreement a "historic opportunity" to save consumers energy costs.

She said the new requirements, once fully in place, could save enough energy to meet the needs of 12 million households and avoid building dozens of new power plants.

"This commonsense standards will save consumers money, lower our dependence on foreign oil and improve public health and our environment," New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the state's governor-elect, said in a statement in Albany.

Critics of the Bush administration's energy-efficiency efforts said some of the standards have been long overdue. The lawsuit charged that the Energy Department was 13 years late in meeting a number of the requirements, although Congress had required that appliance standards be updated.

The court agreement calls for the new standards to go into effect at varying times, the earliest in early 2007 and the latest by June 2011.

Under the agreement, the department must set standards at the maximum technologically feasible and cost-effective level and cannot weaken established standards, said Kennedy.

The department came under criticism last month when it proposed new efficiency requirements for household furnaces that efficiency advocates said were insufficient.

Those standards, which would go into effect in 2015, establish a standard for widely used natural gas furnaces only slightly greater than what was required 20 years ago and at a level that virtually all of the furnaces now on the market already meet. It was not immediately clear how the furnace proposal would be affected by the court agreement.

In addition to North Carolina and New York, states involved in the lawsuit are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin. The Texas Ratepayers' Organization and the Massachusetts Union of Public Housing Tenants, two advocacy groups for low-income consumers, also were plaintiffs.