WASHINGTON - At a recent meeting with energy efficiency, environmental, and consumer groups, and major utility companies, U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham promised to "cut through the red tape" so that long-awaited reviews of energy efficiency standards on residential furnaces and other equipment can be completed as soon as possible.

"We applaud Secretary Abraham's leadership on energy efficiency standards," stated Mark Hopkins, acting co-president of the Alliance to Save Energy. "We all know that bureaucratic procedures can bottle up energy-saving standards for years. But the secretary's leadership will make all the difference in getting these standards done."

In the recent meeting, DOE staff reviewed the steps involved in considering a new standard and discussed ways to smooth the process. The standards under review cover residential furnaces and boilers, commercial air conditioners, and electric distribution transformers.

"Consumers are bracing for higher heating bills with the news that natural gas prices are on the rise," said Mel Hall-Crawford, energy projects director of the Consumer Federation of America. "Improving these standards sooner rather than later will help ease the long-term burden of higher heating bills."

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has estimated that strengthening the residential furnace standard would save typical households in a cold-weather state like Michigan about $120 per winter. On a national basis, ACEEE projects that upgrades to the three standards would save consumers and businesses about $22 billion over the next 20 years, cut the growth in peak electrical demand by an amount equal to the output of 80 new power plants - thus reducing the likelihood of power outages - and save nearly 400 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year, helping to ease upward pressure on natural gas prices.

Publication date: 11/03/2003