Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott last week signed a bill that aims to raise the ante on energy efficiency and drive more federal action.
The new standards apply to a variety of appliances, including computers and monitors, air compressors, urinals and showerheads. The law also corrects a loophole for some types of fluorescent lights.
- House Bill H. 410 had passed both chambers of the state’s legislature by a wide margin — 137-4 in the House and 25-4 in the Senate.
Some states are taking action to counter federal inaction on energy efficiency.
Last spring, 11 states sued the Trump administration’s Department of Energy in an effort to get stalled federal energy efficiency standards back on track. Vermont’s attorney general is one of the parties to the lawsuit.
At the end of the Obama administration, new energy efficiency standards were released for portable air conditioners, air compressors and uninterruptible power supplies. But new federal protocols call for a 45-day waiting period to check for errors, and the period for the new standards spanned the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
"It is almost as if they entered a black hole," Chris Granda, senior researcher and advocate at the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP), told Utility Dive. "The standards have never been published, and the DOE has not said they would publish them," he said.
The Vermont law is "upping the ante" by putting more pressure on the DOE to recognize and take action on the new standards, Granda said.
"The primary purpose of this whole legislation is to influence the federal government to set national standards," State Rep. Curtis McCormack, D, one of the backers of the bill, said in a statement. "It doesn’t take very many states before industry wants the same standards nationwide for ease of selling and distributing these products. We get an amazing amount of energy savings when these standards go national."
In February, a California federal judge ordered DOE to publish the Obama era standards, ruling the delay was unlawful. But the order was stayed in April by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, pending an appeal by DOE.
ASAP estimates that by 2025 the standards will save Vermont consumers and businesses 435 million gallons of water and 59 million kWh of electricity annually. The new state standards also save oil, propane and natural gas. They could be worth $17 million a year for Vermont consumers and the equivalent of avoiding 21,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually by 2025, ASAP estimates.
In addition to air conditioners, air compressors and uninterruptible power supplies, the new standards apply to computers and computer monitors, faucets, showerheads, urinals, portable electric spas, hot food holding cabinets and water coolers.
The law also corrects a loophole that has existed for years exempting certain types of fluorescent light tubes from energy efficient standards. The loophole applied to high Color Rendering Index fluorescent lights, which previously were expensive and had little market share. They are now cheap, but they are still exempt from the standards. Vermont is the first state to issue efficiency standards for those fluorescent lights.
ASAP is currently working with Massachusetts and Rhode Island on new energy efficiency standards and New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also publicly stated his support for tougher energy efficiency standards, Granda said.
In 2017, Gov. Scott also signed H. 411, which incorporates all existing federal standards into Vermont law, thereby helping to protect them from rollbacks at the federal level.