Energy Department Announces Largest Energy Efficiency Standard in History

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The U.S. Department of Energy Thursday announced new efficiency standards for commercial air conditioners and furnaces. In making the announcement, the DOE said the standards, developed with industry, utilities, and environmental groups, “will save more energy than any other standard issued by the Department to date. Over the lifetime of the products, businesses will save $167 billion on their utility bills and carbon pollution will be reduced by 885 million metric tons.” 

According to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, “This rule also shows that strong public-private partnerships can reap environmental and economic dividends and drive technology breakthroughs.”  The new commercial air conditioning and furnace standards will occur in two phases. The first phase will begin in 2018 and will deliver a 13 percent efficiency improvement in products. Five years later, an additional 15 percent increase in efficiency is required for new commercial units. 

Commercial air conditioners, also known as rooftop units, are commonly used in low-rise buildings such as schools, restaurants, big-box stores and small office buildings. They cool about half of the total commercial floor space in the United States. 

To finalize this standard, the Department convened 17 stakeholders, including major industry organizations, including the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute and Air Conditioning Contractors of America, along with some of the nation’s leading manufacturers, utilities, and efficiency organizations. 

The Energy Department’s High Performance Rooftop Unit Challenge catalyzed several manufacturers to develop more efficient, cost-effective rooftop air conditioners. The Department’s Advanced Rooftop Unit Campaign then spurred businesses to upgrade over 40,000 rooftop units to newer models by providing them with technical assistance throughout the process. 

During the last seven years, the Department has finalized new efficiency standards for more than 40 household and commercial products, including commercial refrigeration equipment, electric motors, and fluorescent lamps, which it claims will save consumers nearly $535 billion and cut greenhouse gas emissions by over 2 billion metric tons through 2030. Today’s announcement brings the Energy Department more than two-thirds of the way to achieving the President’s goal of reducing carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons. That is equivalent to cutting more than a year’s carbon pollution from the entire U.S. electricity system.