WASHINGTON - Air conditioner manufacturers and energy efficiency advocates announced that they have reached an agreement on a consensus federal efficiency standard for air conditioners and heat pumps used in commercial buildings.

The current federal standard was established by Congress in 1992 and calls for the most common types of equipment to have an energy efficiency ratio (EER) of 8.9. Under the agreement, the standard for the most common units will rise to 11.2 EER as of Jan. 1, 2010, a 26 percent improvement in efficiency. In addition, the agreement calls for extending the federal standards program to large package commercial air conditioners and heat pumps (up to 760,000 Btuh cooling capacity).

The agreement was negotiated over the last eight months by air conditioner manufacturers, represented by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), and by energy efficiency advocates, represented by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Other signatories to the agreement include 12 air conditioner manufacturers, the California Energy Commission, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Alliance to Save Energy, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

"This agreement represents a win for the environment, for consumers, and for manufacturers," stated William Sutton, president of ARI. "The agreement gives manufacturers regulatory certainty to develop new models for 2010 that will meet both the new efficiency standards and EPA regulations to phase out the use of HCFC refrigerants that can deplete the ozone layer."

According to ACEEE, the agreement will reduce peak power needs by about 7,400 MW by 2020, equivalent to the output of 25 new power plants of 300 MW each. This same analysis found that the agreement will result in net benefits to building owners of about $2.4 billion for commercial air conditioners purchased over the 2010-2030 period, considering the value of the energy savings and subtracting the additional cost of the improved equipment.

"Appliance efficiency standards have been one of the U.S.'s most effective energy-saving policies with the majority of standards developed through consensus negotiations," stated Steven Nadel, executive director of ACEEE. "This agreement shows the benefits of working together and we hope and anticipate that additional product efficiency standards can be negotiated in the future."

The agreement is now being provided to both the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and members of Congress. According to the parties involved, many aspects of the agreement can be adopted by DOE but some aspects will require Congressional action. "Given how contentious appliance standard rulemakings can be, I am very happy to hear that a broad segment of energy efficiency advocates and manufacturers have reached agreement on a preferred approach," stated DOE Acting Under Secretary David Garman. "We will give serious consideration to the approach supported by these parties as we review and evaluate all of the comments that are submitted to DOE on the notice of proposed rulemaking."

Publication date: 11/15/2004