WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has opened a rulemaking process to consider whether or not to raise the existing minimum SEER ratings for air conditioners and heat pumps. As part of this process, the DOE will also consider whether to create regional standards for those products. When Congress passed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, it granted DOE the authority to create up to two separate regional standards for air conditioners and heat pumps in addition to the national standard.

This rulemaking process must conclude with a published final rule by June 2011, and must have an effective date of June 2016.

In an unusual opening step, DOE released a Rulemaking Framework Document designed to “describe procedural and analytical approaches DOE anticipates using to evaluate and update the existing energy conservation standards for residential central air conditioners and heat pumps.” In the document, DOE details 55 specific issues on which it seeks comments and feedback from stakeholders on aspects of the rulemaking process.

After hosting a public meeting to go over the document, which was attended by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the DOE provided stakeholders 30 days to comment and the department intends to review the comments before releasing an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANOPR).

According to ACCA, a provision in the Energy Independence and Security Act removed the requirement for DOE to release an “advanced notice” when amending existing energy efficiency standards. The DOE has come under fire for missing energy efficiency rulemaking deadlines, and the General Accounting Office has cited the department for missing 31 appliance efficiency rulemaking deadlines in a row. “This may explain the extraordinary step in releasing a Rulemaking Framework Document,” said ACCA.

For more information, visit www.acca.org.

Publication date:06/23/2008