President Bush stressed the necessity of the United States to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, late in June. Energy efficiency is "critical for our economy and it's critical for the future of this nation," said Bush. "Increasing energy efficiency will save money for consumers. It will help make American business more competitive. It will help reduce our energy consumption. Increasing energy efficiency will help us achieve a vital national goal. And that is making America less dependent on foreign sources of energy."

An important step in that direction would be to pass the Energy Policy Act of 2005, he said. President Bush later signed the passed bill into law, creating the Energy Policy Act in early August. The policy contained three historic consensus agreements between the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) and several energy-efficiency groups establishing national minimum efficiency standards on commercial package air conditioning equipment, commercial refrigeration equipment, and automatic commercial ice-making equipment.

The terms of the agreements, enacted into law through the energy bill, involved national minimum efficiency standards that would be effective on Jan. 1, 2010. The law set new, more stringent minimum efficiency standards for packaged air conditioners and heat pumps (from 65,000-Btuh up to 240,000-Btuh cooling capacity) that are used in many commercial buildings, a 26 percent improvement.

In addition, the law extended for the first time the federal standards program to:

  • Large package commercial air conditioners and heat pumps from 240,000-Btuh up to 760,000-Btuh cooling capacity;

  • Commercial refrigerators, freezers, and refrigerator freezers used in restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, and other commercial buildings; and

  • Automatic commercial icemakers.

    The agreements were negotiated by ARI and energy-efficiency groups, represented by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

    ARI President William G. Sutton hailed the enactment of these agreements into federal law, stating it "helps manufacturers by creating a regulatory certainty that enables them to research and 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 ARI, the efficiency levels contained in the law will reduce peak power needs by an estimated 8,000 MW by 2020, which is equivalent to the output of 27 new power plants of 300 MW each.

    The energy bill also included language proposed by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). The bill instructed the Secretary of Energy, in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Small Business Administration, to educate homeowners and small-business owners about the energy savings gained by having their HVACR systems properly maintained.

    ACCA was disappointed that the bill repealed the Public Utility Holding Company Act. It said it would continue to dialogue with Congress to address the problem of unfair competition from public utilities. Several senators agreed to hold further hearings regarding the subject and directed the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to prepare an investigative report.

    Publication date: 12/26/2005