WASHINGTON, D.C. — At a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) public hearing today, a broad-based coalition announced a petition to DOE to strengthen energy efficiency standards for home refrigerators. The petition, filed last week, requests that the agency begin the minimum-efficiency standard upgrade process for residential refrigerators, freezers, and refrigerator-freezers.
"A new refrigerator standard ranks among the most significant actions DOE could do to save energy," said Steven Nadel, Executive Director, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
According to the petition, consumers would save as much as $10.1 billion over 25 years if DOE strengthened the current standard by 30%. According to DOE data, the electricity saved over 25 years by such a stronger standard would be enough to meet the total electricity needs of every U.S. home for 18 months.
"Refrigerators are much more efficient than they were 30 years ago," said David B. Goldstein, Senior Scientist, Natural Resources Defense Council. "But they still account for about 14% percent of electricity use in our homes. Fortunately, manufacturers' innovations make further improvements in the efficiency standards possible."
Preceded by several states establishing their own refrigerator efficiency requirements, Congress set initial national standards for refrigerators in 1987, which were updated by DOE in 1989 and 1997. Under the appliance standards law, DOE must grant a petition for a new rulemaking if petitioners show evidence that a new standard is technically feasible, would save a significant amount of energy, and would be cost-effective. If the petition is granted, a full rulemaking will follow during which DOE must consider these and other factors, such as impacts on manufacturers, before setting a new standard.
According to DOE data cited by the petition, more than 687 refrigerators on the market today exceed the current standard by 15% or more. Some refrigerators exceed the standard by as much as 30%. A recent survey of the Sears Web site shows that the average refrigerator that is 15% more efficient than today's minimum standard costs an average of $36 more. When new standards go into effect, the cost of the more efficient units usually declines due to economies of scale in manufacturing. According to the petition, based on analysis of DOE and U.S. Census Bureau data, the incremental cost of a 15% improved refrigerator could be as low as $7 and the incremental cost of a 30% improved refrigerator could be as low as $28, once new standards become effective. The electricity savings from these improvements would pay back these costs to consumers in one to two years.
In addition to Nadel's and Goldstein's organizations, the petitioners include: the California Energy Commission; National Grid, USA; Consumer Federation of America; Pacific Gas and Electric Company; National Consumer Law Center; Northwest Power and Conservation Council; Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships; Vermont Energy Investment Corporation; and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.