DOE to Review Appliance and Building Energy Efficiency Regulations

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Shortly after inauguration, President Joseph R. Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) entitled “Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.” This sweeping Executive Order instructs several agencies—including the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—to conduct a major review of the previous administration’s regulatory rollback, scrutinizing any “federal regulations and other executive actions … that were harmful to public health, damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest.” The EO enumerates over 100 agency actions from the past four years for review and directs these agencies to “consider suspending, revising, or rescinding” any that are inconsistent with the EO’s objective.

As part of these efforts, President Biden has tasked DOE leadership with reviewing several regulations governing the setting of energy efficiency standards. The President highlighted energy efficiency during the campaign as a key piece of his energy and climate mitigation plan, so it comes as no surprise that the EO effectuates that goal. The following energy efficiency regulations are among the agency actions for review, with corresponding deadlines for agency action:

  • Energy Conservation Program for Appliance Standards: Procedures for Use in New or Revised Energy Conservation Standards and Test Procedures for Consumer Products and Commercial/Industrial Equipment (85 Fed. Reg. 8626), by March 2021 (major revisions) and June 2021 (remaining revisions).
  • Energy Conservation Program for Appliance Standards: Procedures for Evaluating Statutory Factors for Use in New or Revised Energy Conservation Standards (85 Fed. Reg. 50937), by March 2021 (major revisions) and June 2021 (remaining provisions).
  • Final Determination Regarding Energy Efficiency Improvements in the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) (84 Fed. Reg. 67435), by May 2021.
  • Final Determination Regarding Energy Efficiency Improvements in ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2016: Energy Standard for Buildings, Except Low-Rise Residential Buildings (83 Fed. Reg. 8463), by May 2021.

The spotlight on building and appliance energy efficiency regulations follows a dearth of action over the last four years, during which the DOE failed to review or update over two dozen appliance standards. Several states and environmental and consumer groups sued the DOE over the missed standards. Under Biden’s EO, the DOE’s new leadership team will scrutinize changes made to the rulemaking process for energy conservation standards, the decision-making process for setting those standards including cost-benefit analyses, and the basis for residential and commercial building energy efficiency standards, signaling a sharp reversal of the prior administration’s approach. We will be watching the administration closely this Wednesday, “Climate Day,” when it likely announces other, possibly more specific, actions in the energy efficiency space.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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