WASHINGTON, D.C.—A bill to modify Energy Star could weaken a program with decades of proven benefits, Alliance to Save Energy President Kateri Callahan told Congress in a hearing Tuesday. The Energy Star Reform Act of 2017 Discussion Draft was considered before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee.
“The old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ applies very well to today’s Energy Star program and should be the test against which the subcommittee determines the content of any bill designed to change or improve the program,” Callahan says in her written testimony. “The Alliance looks forward to working with the subcommittee and Energy Star stakeholders to ensure that continuous program improvement and innovation occurs to streamline and facilitate the involvement of partners while also ensuring that the program continues to deliver energy and dollar-savings to consumers and businesses.”
Energy Star is a voluntary program that helps consumers, businesses and governments save money by making energy-efficient choices. The program is run at a relatively modest cost to taxpayers of about $42 million a year, and the return on this investment is gigantic. In 2015, consumers and businesses saved $34 billion through the program; since its inception, Energy Star and its partners have delivered $430 billion in utility bill savings to consumers and businesses.
Two Provisions of Concern
Callahan’s testimony addresses several provisions in the bill, focusing on two:
- The Alliance does not support the proposal to shift program responsibility from EPA to DOE. While the Alliance is open to shifting specific responsibilities to DOE, a wholesale move of the program to DOE, as the bill proposes, could severely disrupt the administration, growth and promotion of Energy Star. The institutional knowledge, expertise and deep partner relationships that have been established between EPA and its more than 16,000 partners would be jeopardized. The Alliance is particularly concerned about such a shift at a time when funding for Energy Star is under threat. The discussion draft is silent on funding, so it is unclear how DOE could secure the funding to administer the program effectively.
- The Alliance does not support the application of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to Energy Star operations. The bill proposes to apply the requirements of the APA to the specification-setting process for Energy Star products. The APA’s full notice and comment process can take years to complete, and would not be appropriate for a voluntary program. It threatens to bog down the program, leaving standards far behind product innovation, which would undermine consumer confidence in Energy Star and likely serve as a disincentive for companies to participate and introduce new Energy Star-compliant products.
Callahan’s testimony noted that the Alliance is open to changes to the Energy Star program, but that any modifications must be considered carefully with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure there are no negative outcomes for the program partners or for the consumers, businesses and governments who have come to rely on the Energy Star brand to deliver energy and cost savings while improving the environment.
The hearing comes as the program’s budget is in limbo. The administration’s FY2018 budget proposes to eliminate the Energy Star program. The FY2018 House Interior-Environment Appropriations bill includes only $31 million for Energy Star, which represents at least a 25 percent reduction from current funding levels. The Alliance, along with nearly 1,100 companies and organizations, has urged Congress to support the program.