EPA and DOE Highlight Energy Efficiency in Commercial and Residential Buildings

April 06, 2011 by Jeff Shepard

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a 2011 work plan highlighting the agencies’ cooperative work on energy efficiency in commercial and residential buildings and the products and equipment that go into these buildings. This fulfills commitments under the 2009 MOU between the agencies to develop an annual work plan on buildings and products. At the same time, it encompasses a broader range of activities than those governed by the MOU. This plan builds on the accomplishments of 2010 and lays out an ambitious path forward for 2011, subject to the availability of funding. DOE and EPA have worked closely to ensure that our efforts are coordinated and complementary, and to draw upon the resources, strengths and expertise of each agency to support job creation, greater energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas reductions across the country.

Third Party Certification of ENERGY STAR products went into effect, as promised, on January 1, 2011. Under the new requirements, product performance must be certified by an EPA-recognized third-party based on testing in an EPA-recognized lab before it can be labeled with the ENERGY STAR. In addition, ENERGY STAR manufacturers must participate in verification testing programs run by the Certification Bodies, as well as DOE’s parallel, targeted verification testing. As of March 31, 2011, more than 5,000 products across 30 categories have been certified.

The EPA acted on its commitment to ensure that the ENERGY STAR label remains relevant and valuable by promptly updating performance requirements across all product categories as the market and technologies advance. In 2010, EPA launched revisions for TVs, computers, imaging products, displays, battery chargers, dishwashers, room A/C, commercial fryers, and commercial dishwashers that carry the ENERGY STAR.

More than 6,200 buildings earned the ENERGY STAR, 150 building owners demonstrated significant portfolio-wide improvement, with one organization achieving a 50% portfolio-wide energy reduction, and the first ever EPA National Building Competition engaged owners, tenants, students and employees to work off the energy waste. The winning building saved almost 36% energy in one year, and 5 buildings earned the ENERGY STAR.

The Department of Energy Weatherization Assistance Program delivered on its Recovery Act goal of weatherizing more than 300,000 low-income homes by the end of 2010, a major milestone in the Department’s efforts to help reduce home energy bills for families. The program has also trained a new generation of clean energy workers and is employing more than 15,000 workers nationwide. Nationwide, the weatherization of 300,000 homes is estimated to save $161 million in energy costs in just the first year. DOE also launched the Betterbuildings grant program enabling 41 state and local governments to expand the building energy upgrade industry, create jobs, and pave the way for a cleaner energy future. Projects will provide high quality energy improvements to an estimated 170,000 buildings through 2013 and will save Americans up to $50 million annually. Projects are also estimated to create or retain 30,000 jobs.

In November 2010, the DOE launched the Home Energy Score pilot program. The Home Energy Score will offer homeowners straightforward, reliable information about their homes’ energy efficiency – similar to a "miles per gallon." A report provides consumers with a home energy score between 1 and 10, and shows them how their home compares to others in their region. The report also includes customized, cost-effective recommendations that will help to reduce their energy costs and improve the comfort of their homes. The Home Energy Score Program is being piloted in cities throughout the nation.

DOE increased the size and scope of the Commercial Building Energy Alliances (CBEAs) with key industry partners whose goal is to transform the energy efficiency of commercial buildings. The Commercial Building Initiative (CBI) advanced its purpose of significantly improving the energy efficiency of new and existing commercial buildings by researching technologies, strategies, and tools to improve energy savings over current building codes. CBI also engaged commercial building owners and operators to help ensure these technologies are market-ready. DOE and other key collaborators developed the Advanced Energy Design Guides (AEDGs) to accelerate the construction of highly energy-efficient buildings. These guides provide a prescriptive path to achieve 30% energy savings for small offices and retail buildings, warehouses, and K-12 schools over the minimum code requirements.

EPA and DOE worked together in 2010 gathering consumer feedback and stakeholder comments on an effort to highlight the most efficient products. The final criteria will be released in April.

EPA will continue to update performance requirements across all product categories as the market and technologies advance. Out of approximately 25 ENERGY STAR specification revisions that will be underway in 2011, EPA expects to complete approximately 20. DOE will continue to support EPA by monitoring and verifying compliance with the ENERGY STAR criteria and leading the development of product testing procedures. DOE will be developing 8 test procedures for ENERGY STAR products in 2011 in addition to the test procedure rulemakings for ENERGY STAR products that are covered by DOE’s regulatory program.

In 2010, DOE initiated a pilot verification testing program for a subset of product types to ensure that models bearing the ENERGY STAR deliver the efficiency consumers expect. The findings and results from the pilot program are informing the development of the long term verification program for ENERGY STAR products. In 2011, DOE and EPA will be expanding the program for ENERGY STAR products to include verification testing run by certification bodies (CBs) as well as DOE’s parallel, targeted verification testing.

The agencies have agreed it is appropriate to consolidate federal activities that promote whole home energy upgrades at DOE to achieve greater management efficiency and resource focus and to achieve greater market adoption. With this transfer, there is an increased ability to integrate Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (the deployment program) into the Betterbuildings grant Program and the Building America Research Program, uniting research and deployment.

EPA will work with federal agencies and state and local governments to leverage ENERGY STAR in projects funded through ARRA, energy mandates for disclosure and awareness-raising campaigns, and competitions using ENERGY STAR and Portfolio Manager. DOE will continue to develop and disseminate tools and resources including financing guidance, workforce guidelines, and policy best practices. DOE and EPA will provide leadership and technical support to the State Energy Efficiency Action Network and its goal of achieving all cost-effective energy efficiency by 2020 by advancing policies and practices that bring energy efficiency to scale.