An ABB-brand electricity meter measuring kilowatt hours.

Energy Efficiency Standards

Under the Ener­gy Pol­i­cy and Con­ser­va­tion Act (EPCA), the Depart­ment of Ener­gy (DOE) is charged with devel­op­ing ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for a wide range of con­sumer and com­mer­cial prod­ucts. Dur­ing the Trump era, DOE attempt­ed to derail sev­er­al DOE ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards that were final­ized pri­or to the change in admin­is­tra­tion and to make it more dif­fi­cult for DOE in the future to estab­lish ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for a wide range of appliances.

Prod­uct Effi­cien­cy Standards

Ceil­ing Fans

2017-2021

At the begin­ning of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, DOE sought to delay the effec­tive date of the final ener­gy effi­cien­cy rule for ceil­ing fans. 

  • March 2017

    In March 2017, a coali­tion of nine attor­neys gen­er­al filed a peti­tion in the Sec­ond Cir­cuit chal­leng­ing DOE’s delay of the effec­tive date of the Ener­gy Con­ser­va­tion Stan­dard for Ceil­ing Fans. After fil­ing the law­suit, DOE dropped its effort to delay the effec­tive date of the ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dard and agreed to allow the final rule to go into effect.

Appli­ances and Indus­tri­al Equipment

  • April 2017

    In April 2017, 10 attor­neys gen­er­al deliv­ered a 60-day notice of intent to sue DOE for its fail­ure for over a year to pub­lish final ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for five addi­tion­al prod­ucts: air com­pres­sors, com­mer­cial pack­aged boil­ers, portable air con­di­tion­ers, walk-in cool­ers and freez­ers, and unin­ter­rupt­ible pow­er supplies. 

  • June 2017

    In June 2017, when DOE still had not pub­lished final ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards in the Fed­er­al Reg­is­ter, the coali­tion of attor­neys gen­er­al filed a law­suit against DOE for vio­lat­ing the Ener­gy Pol­i­cy and Con­ser­va­tion Act by not pub­lish­ing the stan­dards. The law­suit seeks to require DOE to imme­di­ate­ly pub­lish the stan­dards as final rules.

  • Feb­ru­ary 2018

    In Feb­ru­ary 2018, a fed­er­al dis­trict court sided in favor of the attor­neys gen­er­al in rul­ing that DOE had vio­lat­ed its duties under EPCA and ordered DOE to pub­lish four stan­dards as final rules with­in 28 days. 

  • March 2018

    In March 2018, DOE noti­fied the dis­trict court it had appealed the order to the Ninth Cir­cuit Court of Appeals and sought to stay the order to pub­lish the standards. 

  • April 2018

    In April 2018, the Ninth Cir­cuit stayed the dis­trict court’s order to pub­lish the standards.

  • Octo­ber 2019

    In Octo­ber 2019, the Ninth Cir­cuit sided with the attor­neys gen­er­al in uphold­ing the fed­er­al dis­trict court’s deci­sion. The court ruled that DOE had a non-dis­cre­tionary duty to pub­lish the four ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards under EPCA and lift­ed its April 2018 stay of the dis­trict court’s order for DOE to pub­lish the standards.

  • Jan­u­ary 2020

    In Jan­u­ary 2020, DOE acknowl­edged defeat and pub­lished the final ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for four of the products.

  • March 2020

    In March 2020, three indus­try groups filed a law­suit seek­ing to over­turn the ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for com­mer­cial pack­aged boil­ers, claim­ing that the rule does not save a sig­nif­i­cant amount of ener­gy and is not cost-effective.

  • April 2020

    In April 2020, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Xavier Becer­ra led a coali­tion of 12 attor­neys gen­er­al and the City of New York in fil­ing a motion to inter­vene in the law­suit to defend the stan­dard against the chal­lenge in the D.C. Cir­cuit. Giv­en DOE’s pre­vi­ous fail­ure to pub­lish the stan­dards, the coali­tion sought to inter­vene to ensure that the stan­dards are faith­ful­ly defended.

Dish­wash­ers

2017-2021

  • July 2019

    In July 2019, DOE pro­posed the cre­ation of a new res­i­den­tial dish­wash­er prod­uct class with a nor­mal cycle” time of less than one hour. DOE stat­ed that under EPCA dish­wash­ers with a nor­mal cycle time of less than one hour have a per­for­mance-relat­ed fea­ture that oth­er dish­wash­ers do not have, jus­ti­fy­ing the cre­ation of a sep­a­rate prod­uct class. The pro­pos­al would exclude this new prod­uct class from the require­ments of any ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards and that any new stan­dard for this new prod­uct class would not be sub­ject to EPCA’s anti-back­slid­ing provision.


  • Octo­ber 2019

    In Octo­ber 2019, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led a coali­tion of 13 attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing com­ments in oppo­si­tion to the pro­posed new prod­uct class for res­i­den­tial dish­wash­ers. The com­ments not­ed that the pro­pos­al vio­lates EPCA’s anti-back­slid­ing pro­vi­sion by cre­at­ing a new prod­uct class for dish­wash­ers that would not be sub­ject to lim­its on allow­able ener­gy use. Fur­ther, the attor­neys gen­er­al point­ed out that the pro­pos­al is not sup­port­ed by the admin­is­tra­tive record and thus is arbi­trary and capri­cious in vio­la­tion of the APA. Last­ly, DOE improp­er­ly assert­ed a cat­e­gor­i­cal exclu­sion for the pro­pos­al so as to avoid con­duct­ing an envi­ron­men­tal review of the pro­pos­al under the Nation­al Envi­ron­men­tal Pol­i­cy Act (NEPA); there­fore fail­ing to com­ply with NEPA.

  • Octo­ber 2020

    In Octo­ber 2020, DOE issued a final ver­sion of the rule that ignored the con­cerns of the coali­tion of attor­neys gen­er­al. The final rule cre­ates a new prod­uct class of dish­wash­ers that are exempt from ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards. Fol­low­ing the release of the final rule, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra released a state­ment in oppo­si­tion to the rule as it will cost con­sumers mon­ey and pol­lute the environment.

  • Decem­ber 2020

    In Decem­ber 2020, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Xavier Becer­ra led a coali­tion of 15 attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing a peti­tion for review chal­leng­ing the Octo­ber 2020 rule. As of June 2021 the lit­i­ga­tion was held in abeyance.

Fur­naces and Water Heaters

In 2015, DOE pro­posed stan­dards to improve the ener­gy effi­cien­cy per­for­mance of res­i­den­tial gas fur­naces and, the fol­low­ing year, the Depart­ment pro­posed stan­dards to improve the per­for­mance of com­mer­cial hot water heaters. These pro­pos­als have not been finalized.

2017-2021

  • Octo­ber 2018

    In Octo­ber 2018, mem­bers of the gas indus­try filed a peti­tion for rule­mak­ing with DOE request­ing the issuance of inter­pre­tive rule that would state that DOE’s 2015 and 2016 pro­pos­als for res­i­den­tial gas fur­naces and com­mer­cial hot water heaters would result in the unavail­abil­i­ty of per­for­mance char­ac­ter­is­tics” with­in the mean­ing of EPCA. Specif­i­cal­ly, the gas indus­try claimed that the pro­pos­als would have estab­lished stan­dards that could only be met by con­dens­ing com­bus­tion tech­nol­o­gy products/​equipment, there­by pre­clud­ing the com­mer­cial sale of non-con­dens­ing com­bus­tion tech­nol­o­gy products/​equipment. The peti­tion asked that DOE with­draw the pro­posed standards.

  • March 2019

    In March 2019, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al Leti­tia James led a coali­tion of ten attor­neys gen­er­als in fil­ing com­ments in response to the Octo­ber 2018 peti­tion for rule­mak­ing. The com­ments opposed the requests in the peti­tion as con­trary to DOE’s effi­cien­cy stan­dards that have reduced con­sumer and indus­tri­al ener­gy con­sump­tion and costs and that non-con­dens­ing com­bus­tion tech­nol­o­gy products/​equipment are not per­for­mance char­ac­ter­is­tics” with­in the mean­ing of EPCA.

  • July 2019

    Ignor­ing the com­ments of the attor­neys gen­er­al, DOE, in July 2019, issued a pro­posed rule for ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for res­i­den­tial gas fur­naces and com­mer­cial hot water heaters. The pro­pos­al grant­ed the gas industry’s request for an inter­pre­ta­tive rule, but declined to with­draw the 2015 and 2016 pro­posed rules for res­i­den­tial gas fur­naces and com­mer­cial hot water heaters. Still, the inter­pre­ta­tive rule deter­mined that non-con­dens­ing com­bus­tion tech­nol­o­gy products/​equipment are per­for­mance char­ac­ter­is­tics” under EPCA, which would pro­hib­it DOE from adopt­ing an ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dard that would result in the com­mer­cial unavail­abil­i­ty of non-con­dens­ing com­bus­tion tech­nol­o­gy products/​equipment in fur­naces and hot water heaters.

  • Sep­tem­ber 2019

    New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al James led a coali­tion of 13 attor­neys gen­er­al in Sep­tem­ber 2019, in fil­ing com­ments in oppo­si­tion to the July 2019 pro­posed inter­pre­ta­tive rule. Again, the com­ments empha­sized that non-con­dens­ing com­bus­tion tech­nol­o­gy products/​equipment are not per­for­mance char­ac­ter­is­tics” under EPCA and are con­trary to DOE’s con­clu­sions in pri­or rule­mak­ings. The attor­neys gen­er­al also point­ed out that the pro­posed inter­pre­ta­tive rule’s effec­tive grand­fa­ther­ing of inef­fi­cient prod­uct designs for res­i­den­tial gas fur­naces and com­mer­cial hot water heaters would cost con­sumers bil­lions of dol­lars in lost ener­gy sav­ings and increase car­bon emis­sions by mil­lions of met­ric tons.

  • Jan­u­ary 2021

    In Jan­u­ary 2021, DOE final­ized its inter­pre­ta­tive rule deter­min­ing that non-con­dens­ing com­bus­tion tech­nol­o­gy products/​equipment are per­for­ma­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics” under EPCA.

Con­sumer, Com­mer­cial and Indus­tri­al Products

2017-2021

  • August 2020

    In August 2020, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al James led a coali­tion of 16 attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing a 60-day notice of intent to sue DOE for fail­ing to meet its oblig­a­tion under EPCA to amend and review ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for 25 cat­e­gories of con­sumer, com­mer­cial and indus­tri­al prod­ucts. The cov­ered prod­ucts include dish­wash­ers, refrig­er­a­tors and water heaters and the missed dead­lines for review­ing and amend­ing the effi­cien­cy stan­dards date back to 2016. The notice point­ed out that updat­ed stan­dards for just four of the appli­ances could save con­sumers over $7.5 bil­lion in avoid­ed con­sumer util­i­ty costs and reduce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions by 22 mil­lion met­ric tons by 2035. The attor­neys gen­er­al warned that they would sue to com­pel DOE to ful­fill its statu­to­ry oblig­a­tions, if it does not act to update the stan­dards with­in 60 days.

  • Novem­ber 2020

    In Novem­ber 2020, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al James led a coali­tion of 15 attor­neys gen­er­al in fol­low­ing through on the 60-day notice of intent to sue DOE. The attor­neys gen­er­al filed a law­suit in a New York fed­er­al dis­trict court against DOE for its fail­ure to amend and review ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for the 25 cat­e­gories of con­sumer, com­mer­cial and indus­tri­al prod­ucts. The law­suit not­ed that DOE’s fail­ure to meet the statu­to­ry dead­line deprives the states and their res­i­dents the ben­e­fits of strength­ened ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards, includ­ing bil­lions in low­er ener­gy costs for con­sumers and bil­lions of met­ric tons of avoid­ed car­bon diox­ide emis­sions. The attor­neys gen­er­al request­ed that the court issue a per­ma­nent injunc­tion requir­ing DOE to review and amend the ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for the 25 cat­e­gories of prod­ucts pur­suant to EPCA.

Clothes Wash­ers and Dryers

2017-2021

  • August 2020

    In August 2020, DOE released a pro­pos­al to exempt fast-cycle clothes wash­ers and dry­ers from any ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards. Fast-cycle prod­ucts include top-load­ing wash­ers with a wash cycle of less than 30 min­utes, front-load­ing wash­ers of less than 45 min­utes, and dry­ers of less than 30 minutes.

  • Octo­ber 2020

    In Octo­ber 2020, Ore­gon Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ellen Rosen­blum led a coali­tion of 15 state attor­neys gen­er­al in sub­mit­ting com­ments object­ing to the pro­pos­al and urg­ing DOE to with­draw it. In their com­ments, the attor­neys gen­er­al empha­sized that the pro­pos­al vio­lates EPCA and that DOE does not have the author­i­ty to exempt cer­tain wash­ers from min­i­mum stan­dards set by Con­gress itself. The coali­tion also not­ed that the pro­pos­al vio­lates NEPA by mis­tak­en­ly assert­ing that it would not result in any envi­ron­men­tal impacts. The attor­neys gen­er­al not­ed that exempt­ing wash­ers and dry­ers from ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards would result in neg­a­tive envi­ron­men­tal impacts from increased green­house gas emissions.

  • Decem­ber 2020

    In Decem­ber 2020, DOE pub­lished the final ver­sion of the effi­cien­cy stan­dards for fast-cycle clothes wash­ers and dry­ers. Ignor­ing the con­cerns raised by the attor­neys gen­er­al, the final rule exempts cer­tain wash­ers from min­i­mum ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards. The fol­low­ing month, before the end of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led a coali­tion of 15 attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing a peti­tion for review in the Sec­ond Cir­cuit chal­leng­ing the Decem­ber 2020 rule. As of June 2021, the lit­i­ga­tion was stayed.

Pro­ce­dur­al Rules

Process Rule

EPCA requires DOE to amend its ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for appli­ances and equip­ment that are used in res­i­den­tial, com­mer­cial and indus­tri­al build­ings every six years unless doing so would fail to result in sig­nif­i­cant ener­gy sav­ings or oth­er con­di­tions are met. In 1996, DOE devel­oped the Process Rule, which gov­erns the process by which the depart­ment amends ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for cov­ered appli­ances and equip­ment under EPCA.

2017-2021

  • Feb­ru­ary 2019

    In Feb­ru­ary 2019, DOE issued a notice of pro­posed rule­mak­ing to revise the 1996 Process Rule. The pro­pos­al would define sig­nif­i­cant ener­gy sav­ings as those that achieve a ten per­cent increase in ener­gy sav­ings. DOE then could not adopt new ener­gy effi­cien­cy stan­dards for prod­ucts unless the depart­ment believes that the new stan­dard for the prod­uct will use ener­gy ten per­cent more effi­cient­ly than appli­ances and equip­ment cur­rent­ly in use. The pro­pos­al would also make the Process Rule bind­ing, pro­vid­ing appli­ance and equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sue the depart­ment if indus­try believes the stan­dards are too strin­gent. Man­u­fac­tur­ers could even pur­sue a law­suit if the depart­ment devi­ates from the Process Rule.

  • May 2019

    Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led a coali­tion of fif­teen attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing com­ments in oppo­si­tion to revis­ing the Process Rule. The May 2019 com­ments point­ed out that DOE has used the Process Rule to adopt many of the effi­cien­cy stan­dards in the department’s ener­gy effi­cien­cy pro­gram that has deliv­ered $2 tril­lion dol­lars in con­sumer sav­ings and avoid­ed 2.6 bil­lion tons of car­bon emis­sions. The attor­neys gen­er­al crit­i­cized the pro­posed ten per­cent thresh­old require­ment to qual­i­fy as a sig­nif­i­cant ener­gy sav­ings as being unteth­ered to Con­gress’ intent in pass­ing EPCA. Addi­tion­al­ly, mak­ing the Process Rule manda­to­ry would mean that DOE would lose its dis­cre­tion to devi­ate from the Process Rule when appro­pri­ate to ful­fill its statu­to­ry oblig­a­tions under EPCA.

  • Jan­u­ary 2020

    In Jan­u­ary 2020, DOE released its final rule revis­ing the 1996 Process Rule. The final rule large­ly ignored the con­cerns the attor­neys gen­er­al expressed about the pro­posed rule in set­ting the thresh­old for sig­nif­i­cant ener­gy sav­ings at ten per­cent more effi­cient than cur­rent stan­dards or sav­ing 0.3 quadrillion British ther­mal unit of ener­gy over three decades. Addi­tion­al­ly, the final rule also makes the Process Rule bind­ing on DOE.

  • April 2020

    In April 2020, Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra led a coali­tion of four­teen attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing a peti­tion for review chal­leng­ing DOE’s final rule. In the law­suit, the coali­tion will argue that the thresh­old for sig­nif­i­cant ener­gy sav­ings is imper­mis­si­bly high and would result in the unnec­es­sary loss of sig­nif­i­cant ener­gy savings.

Waiv­er Process

One of the pil­lars of EPCA’s ener­gy effi­cien­cy require­ments is com­pli­ance test­ing, which DOE facil­i­tates by estab­lish­ing test pro­ce­dures so that man­u­fac­tur­ers can test and cer­ti­fy that their prod­ucts com­ply with applic­a­ble stan­dards. Man­u­fac­tur­ers may request a waiv­er from applic­a­ble test pro­ce­dure require­ments if the design pre­vents a prod­uct from being test­ed or if the test would result in inac­cu­rate ener­gy use data. While that waiv­er peti­tion is pend­ing, the man­u­fac­tur­er may also apply for an inter­im waiv­er, which allows DOE 30 days to pub­lish its deci­sion, if admin­is­tra­tive­ly fea­si­ble, and gives DOE an oppor­tu­ni­ty to spec­i­fy an alter­na­tive test pro­ce­dure as part of its inter­im decision.

2017-2021

  • May 2019

    In May 2019, DOE issued a notice of pro­posed rule­mak­ing regard­ing changes to DOE’s test pro­ce­dure waiv­er process, which would grant inter­im waivers by default with­out review. Com­pa­nies could sim­ply inform DOE that they do not intend to fol­low the required test­ing pro­ce­dures, and if DOE does not object with­in 30 days, these inter­im waiv­er requests would be deemed grant­ed.” If DOE ulti­mate­ly denies the waiv­er request or assigns an alter­nate test pro­ce­dure, the man­u­fac­tur­er could then avoid com­pli­ance test­ing for an addi­tion­al 180-day grace period.

  • August 2019

    In August 2019, 16 attor­neys gen­er­al filed com­ments in oppo­si­tion to DOE’s pro­pos­al. The com­ments not­ed that the pro­posed rule would effec­tive­ly allow any com­pa­ny to man­u­fac­ture and sell non-com­pli­ant prod­ucts for at least half a year. The attor­neys gen­er­al also crit­i­cized the pro­pos­al for bur­den­ing con­sumers and busi­ness­es with the cost­ly long-last­ing prod­ucts that do not meet DOE’s ener­gy effi­cien­cy standards.

  • Decem­ber 2020

    In Decem­ber 2020, DOE released the final ver­sion of the test pro­ce­dure waiv­er process rule. In a change from the pro­posed rule, an inter­im waiv­er request will be deemed grant­ed,” if DOE does not object with­in 45 days — instead of 30 days as in the pro­pos­al. How­ev­er, the final rule main­tains the 180-day grace peri­od for com­pli­ance test­ing if DOE denies the waiv­er request, there­by allow­ing any com­pa­ny to man­u­fac­ture and sell non-com­pli­ant prod­ucts for at least half a year. The attor­neys gen­er­al opposed this pro­vi­sion in their August 2019 comments.

  • Jan­u­ary 2021

    In Jan­u­ary 2021, New York Attor­ney Gen­er­al James led a coali­tion of 15 attor­neys gen­er­al in fil­ing a peti­tion for review in the Sec­ond Cir­cuit chal­leng­ing the legal­i­ty of the Decem­ber 2020 rule. As of June 2021, the case was in abeyance.

Pri­or­i­ti­za­tion of Ener­gy Con­ser­va­tion Standards

2017-2021

  • April 2020

    In April 2020, DOE issued a rule­mak­ing notice request­ing com­ments on which ener­gy effi­cien­cy rule­mak­ings DOE should pri­or­i­tize or deem­pha­size in its dock­et. The notice asked com­menters to address which rule­mak­ings should be placed in active or long-term action cat­e­gories and to sug­gest how quick­ly rule­mak­ings should be com­plet­ed or how cer­tain rule­mak­ings should be prioritized.

  • May 2020

    In May 2020, a coali­tion of 14 attor­neys gen­er­al led by Cal­i­for­nia Attor­ney Gen­er­al Becer­ra filed com­ments urg­ing DOE not to waste resources on an unnec­es­sary pri­or­i­ti­za­tion process, and instead pro­ceed with the numer­ous over­due rule­mak­ings for ener­gy effi­cien­cy reg­u­la­tions that it is required by law to com­plete. In its com­ments, the coali­tion high­light­ed that DOE can­not legal­ly delay or deem­pha­size its com­pli­ance oblig­a­tions with the manda­to­ry statu­to­ry dead­lines imposed by EPCA. The attor­neys gen­er­al rec­om­mend­ed that DOE put an end to its dis­cre­tionary rule­mak­ing activ­i­ties (see above) that under­mine the ener­gy effi­cien­cy pro­gram, and instead com­mit to com­ply­ing with its statu­to­ry duties and focus all of its ener­gy effi­cien­cy resources on those duties.