As president and CEO, Stephen Yurek has led the Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) to be proactive on regulatory issues, especially in the area of standards development. For his industry leadership and success, Yurek is a 2011 NEWSmaker.

Negotiating for Success

Yurek joined ARI, AHRI’s predecessor organization, in 2002 as its general counsel. At that time, he was hired to help resolve lawsuits that ARI was involved in with the Department of Energy (DOE) and the California Energy Commission. But since Yurek took over leadership of AHRI, he has emphasized negotiation instead of litigation.

“We have found negotiation of contentious issues a winning strategy,” Yurek said. “The perception of the industry has been that it is reactive and defensive. We have been seen, I think unfairly, as proponents of the status quo rather than as leaders in finding solutions to improve energy efficiency and environmental stewardship.”

With Yurek’s encouragement, AHRI members have directed staff to take a proactive approach. Now, he said, the organization is focused on looking at what’s ahead to determine how it can be accommodated in a way that positions the industry as a responsible steward of the environment.

And the consensus agreements that recently became DOE direct final rule for air conditioners, heat pumps, and furnaces, are the best example of this approach. Yurek believes the adoption of the new standards is a great accomplishment for the industry, as well as for AHRI.

Back in 2007, he said, AHRI looked at the makeup of Congress and the administration and “ultimately saw that they were going to adopt legislation that gave DOE the authority to implement regional standards.” In response, Yurek said, “We wanted to have a say in how that was developed in order to have the least impact on the industry, but at the same time meet the pressure that was out there for regional standards.”

The process of developing the consensus agreements was not easy, Yurek said, especially since regional minimum efficiency standards are without precedent. “As part of our proactive approach, we engaged directly and began meeting regularly with energy-efficiency groups,” Yurek said. He reminisced about many long meetings, and said that consensus was only achieved “after more than a year and many extremely long negotiations.”

AHRI was recently recognized for its attempts to work with the energy efficiency groups, and was honored in October with the Super Nova of Energy Efficiency award from the Alliance to Save Energy. “We were quite surprised because I think we’re the first trade association — manufacturing group in particular — to ever have been so honored,” Yurek said.

Promoting the Industry

Yurek also noted that AHRI had other successes in 2011. One accomplishment was convincing DOE to suspend a burdensome certification and verification requirement for commercial products. Another was co-hosting an HVACR industry awareness event on Capitol Hill with HARDI, ACCA, PHCC, and NATE. 

“Having over 350 House staffers and others attend to see who we were was a great opportunity,” he said, adding that it was great to join forces with the entire HVACR industry. 

Looking ahead, Yurek sees more opportunities for the industry to succeed in 2012. He is hopeful that Congress will adopt more of the equipment and building code standards that were negotiated in the consensus agreements. And he intends to promote the value of AHRI certification. “We will continue to improve and expand the awareness, image, and use of AHRI certification not only in North America but also globally,” he said.

SIDEBAR: 2011 NEWSmaker 

Name: Stephen Yurek

Title: President and CEO

Company: The Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute

Location: Arlington, Va.

Notable quote: “I am an attorney and I like a good fight, but at the same time I like working deals and not wasting resources.”

Publication date: 12/19/2011