Energy Dept. Gives Energy Savings the 'Cold Shoulder'

January 9, 2009

Media Contact(s):

Andrew deLaski, 617-390-5334, Executive Director, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)
Steven Nadel , 202-507-4011, Executive Director

Washington, D.C. — An efficiency advocate and environmental coalition faulted a new energy efficiency rule issued by the Bush administration today. Although DOE chose the strongest efficiency standards for some types of supermarket refrigerators, it elected to go with weaker standards for several major types, leaving significant energy savings on the table.

“It’s refreshing to see the Energy Department select some strong standards for a change,” said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). “But, it’s a shame they’ve not applied these strong standards to all supermarket systems.”

According to DOE, the new standards issued today will net supermarkets and other users of this equipment nearly $4 billion in savings and save about one quad of energy (about 96 billion kilowatt hours of electricity) over thirty years, or roughly enough to meet the needs of 5 million U.S. households for a year. The stronger standards that DOE rejected would have saved another .26 quads (about 25 billion kilowatt hours), or enough to power another 1.3 million households for a year. DOE’s chosen standard will eliminate 52.6 millions tons of carbon dioxide over thirty years (according to DOE, an amount equal to that annually emitted by 332,500 cars); the stronger standard would have cut another 13 million tons (an amount equal to that annually emitted by another 82,000 cars).

“With this standard for supermarket refrigerators, DOE has given energy savings the cold shoulder,” said Andrew deLaski, Executive Director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP). “Stronger standards would have increased energy savings by 25%, resulting in even greater energy bill savings and less pollution.”

The new DOE performance standards, which will be effective starting in 2012, can be met with a variety of technical improvements, including improved insulation and better design. One key improvement is energy-efficient lighting. DOE found that LED lighting systems enable big energy savings in supermarket refrigeration and have been getting cheaper every year. LED system prices dropped 9% in 2008 alone and DOE’s Solid State Lighting Research and Development Program projects they will fall by 50% by 2012. In preliminary analysis released in August 2008, DOE showed that, assuming a 50% decline in LED prices, the highest standards would make sense for all supermarket refrigeration systems and would save purchasers $5 billion in net savings over 30 years. However, for the analysis underlying today’s standard, DOE rejected its own LED price estimates, instead assuming that LED prices will stay at 2008 levels forever.

“DOE’s assumption that LED prices will suddenly stop declining is indefensible,” said Lane Burt, Energy Policy Analyst with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Twenty-year trends don’t just stop on a dime.”

"Stronger standards not only would have saved more money but would have spurred manufacturers to adopt energy-saving technologies," said Tim Ballo, an attorney with Earthjustice.

This standard is the fourth completed by the Bush administration. Efficiency proponents, including NRDC and Earthjustice, and states have sued DOE to force the agency to reconsider two of those standards. The Bush standard for natural gas home furnaces is so weak that 99% of current sales already comply. The Bush standard for utility distribution transformers fell short of the levels recommended jointly by the utility industry, energy efficiency advocates, and one of the largest transformer manufacturers. Those lawsuits are pending.

During the campaign, President-elect Obama committed to overhaul how DOE sets appliance standards. Under court orders and Congressional deadlines, the incoming administration must complete at least 25 new energy efficiency standards within the next four years. Among the first up will be a new standard for the tubular fluorescent lamps found in most offices. According to DOE’s preliminary analysis, this standard could deliver more energy savings than any other DOE has ever completed. A proposed standard is due any day and a final standard is due in June.

The Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) is dedicated to increasing awareness of and support for cost-effective appliance and equipment efficiency standards. Founded in 1999, ASAP is led by a steering committee that includes representatives from the environmental community, consumer groups, utilities and state government. See

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting economic prosperity, energy security, and environmental protection. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, contact ACEEE, 529 14th Street N.W., Suite 600, Washington, D.C.20045 or visit

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.