Energy Department Says It Has ‘Mandate’ to Force ‘Market Transformation’ for Household Appliances
Assistant Energy Secretary Cathy Zoi said Thursday that the U.S. Department of Energy has a “mandate” to issue regulations to determine what household appliances are available to Americans in the future.
Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the recently reestablished Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB), Zoi pointed to four tactics the Obama administration intends to use to advance the “deployment of clean energy.”
The first three include government subsidies for private-sector green energy projects; special tax incentives for green energy projects; and low-interest government-backed loans for green energy projects.
“The fourth one, which the secretary and I love,” said Zoi, “is where we have a mandate. Where we can actually just issue regulations and do market transformation.”
Zoi was referring to authority the department has under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975, as amended by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. That law gives the DOE the power to set efficiency standards for energy-consuming products.
“That’s an existing statute that this Department of Energy is going to make work really hard,” Zoi said. “We’ve already issued appliance standards that are going to save the American public somewhere between $250 billion and $300 billion over the next 20 years, just by getting the crummy stuff off the market.”
Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who also spoke at the meeting, announced in April that the department had finalized five new “higher energy efficiency standards” for commercial clothes washers, small electric motors, water heaters, direct heating equipment and pool heaters.
Standards for 10 additional categories of products are expected to be finalized by the end of next year, according to a DOE spokeswoman. These will include new standards for refrigerators, microwave ovens, residential and mobile home furnaces, fluorescent light ballasts, residential clothes washers and dryers, room and central air conditioners, and battery chargers.
“We’re going to update [the standards] more frequently” said Zoi. “We have the power to do that in the statute.”
Before becoming President Barack Obama’s assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy, Zoi served as environmental adviser to President Bill Clinton and the founding CEO of former Vice President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection.
Zoi said that stricter federal energy efficiency standards will “drive innovation” and are “cost effective.”
“As the secretary [Chu] says, ‘We’re going to make people save money for themselves,’” Zoi said. “They haven’t dumped the dollar bills on the ground yet.”
The SEAB was first chartered in the George H. W. Bush administration, but it was disbanded by President George W. Bush’s Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. Chu reestablished the advisory board in August.
Jen Stutsman, an Energy Department spokeswoman, told CNSNews.com that energy efficiency regulations issued by the department are designed to help consumers and manufacturers.
“Our goal is to develop standards that are both technically feasible and economically justified and that maximize the benefits to consumers while minimizing any negative impacts on manufacturers or others,” Stutsman said.
At the first meeting of the reestablished board on Thursday, Chu said energy and science are vital to the country’s future, as is the work of the DOE.
“We feel that beyond just energy, science is at the heart of what will keep America prosperous in the coming years,” Chu said.
The 12-member board includes former government officials and corporate executives, including Clinton Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch; Clinton Defense Secretary William Perry and former Clinton Labor Secretary Alexis Herman; and former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine.