My fellow efficiency advocates and I have spent countless hours over the last year negotiating with manufacturers of every appliance and piece of equipment imaginable, trying to reach agreements on what the next energy standards will look like. These standards set the minimum level of efficiency that every product covered must meet to be sold and are generally set by the Department of Energy. Sometimes, advocates and industry representatives can reach an agreement before DOE gets involved, using creative solutions that may fall outside the scope of a DOE rulemaking, and on products that DOE does not yet cover.
Negotiations on these products go back and forth and get into the most obscure technical details. Where do we set the bar? What products won't make the cut? What is the time frame? How do we deal with this or that niche product? These questions are just the beginning.
In many cases, the sides are just too far apart -- but sometimes, we can actually make a deal. And against the backdrop of a revitalized DOE, we have crossed the finish line on a host of products that are included in S. 3059, the National Energy Efficiency Enhancement Act of 2010, which was the topic of a hearing in the Senate Energy committee recently.
This bill sets new consensus efficiency standards for many products, many of which I have blogged on before:
- Residential air conditioners
- Residential furnaces
- Residential heat pumps
- Heat pump pool heaters
- Class A external power supplies
- Street lights and parking lot lights
Huge, huge savings -- 70 million metric tons of CO2 per year and over 1.2 quads annually in 2030.
This isn't the only great bill being considered that we have worked hard on. S. 1696, The Green Gaming Act of 2009, directs DOE to conduct a study on video game console energy use and consider standards for these products.
Roughly 40% of homes in the U.S. have at least one video game console. These consoles vary widely in energy use -- the Nintendo Wii only uses around 20 watts when on, whereas the PlayStation 3 and XBOX 360 consume up to 7 times as much energy, depending on the model you have purchased.
The energy-intensive consoles consume as much or more power to operate as many high-end computers, except video game consoles do not automatically go to sleep and enter a low-power mode when left on. If you leave the XBOX 360 or PS3 on all the time, which a fair amount of users do, then you are looking at the annual energy use equal to roughly two new refrigerators!
Lastly, S.3054, includes new standards for hot food-holding cabinets, hot tubs, and water dispensers. Hot food, hot tubs, and cold water, as Sen. Menendez said during the hearing, all obtained much more efficiently.
These bills are examples of what can be done in nearly every industry for energy efficiency. These manufacturers decided it was in their best interest to work with us to figure out how to make their products more efficient, with certainty on dates and levels, rather than starting a lobbying war against energy efficiency and all its benefits. Now that the ink is dry, we will all benefit.