New Minimum 13 S.E.E.R . Standard Begins January 23, 2006
Government Will Enforce Tougher Air Conditioner Efficiency Standards
H. JOSEF HEBERT / AP April 2, 2004
WASHINGTON—The government agreed Friday to require new central air conditioners and heat pumps to be 30 percent more efficient beginning in 2006.
The Energy Department said it would not challenge a January court ruling stopping it from replacing a Clinton administration rule with one requiring a less stringent standard.
"At this point all parties have had their say in court" and it was time to stop the litigation, Assistant Energy Secretary David Garman said in a statement.
Department officials said they would tell manufacturers that they would enforce the tougher standard, although they previously had tried to roll it back to 20 percent.
The 30 percent increase is estimated to save consumers $3.4 billion in energy costs and avoid the construction of 150 power plants in 2020 when the new units are expected to be in wide use, said the Alliance to Save Energy, an advocacy group.
It is "a great victory for consumers who have been whipsawed this year by winter heating bills and then record gasoline prices," said Kateri Callahan, alliance president.
A federal court ruled that the Energy Department had violated the law when it scrapped the Clinton administration rule and substituted one calling for a 20 percent increase in energy efficiency. The court said Congress, in creating the efficiency standards, made clear that once a standard is on the books it cannot be rolled back.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, consumer groups and attorneys general from 10 states had filed a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration's 20 percent increase.
The regulation requires manufacturers of home central air conditioners and heat pumps to meet a SEER-13 standard, compared to the maximum SEER-10 standard now in effect. The Energy Department had wanted to limit the increase to SEER-12.
SEER, which stands for seasonal energy efficiency ratio, is a measurement of efficiency for appliances.
While the new requirements won't take effect until after 2005, Garman said the Energy Department wanted to make clear it will enforce the more stringent requirements.
"In the interest of giving consumers and industry the regulatory certainty they need it is time for the government and for private parties to stop litigating and start working toward complying" with the tougher standard, he said.
Major manufacturers had argued that if they are required to have all their units meet the higher standard, the cost of air conditioning systems will escalate and outweigh energy savings in parts of the country with cool temperatures. Nevertheless, the manufacturers recently dropped a lawsuit challenging the new standard.
Air conditioners and heat pumps account for two-thirds of electricity use during peak summer demand periods. Improved efficiency in these units is viewed as key to reducing electricity demand and easing the strain on the nation's power grids during peak periods.
ARI Withdraws From 13 SEER Challenge
ARI Press Release March 17, 2004
ARLINGTON, Va -- William G. Sutton, president of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), today announced cessation of ARI’s challenge of a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) regulation affecting central air conditioners and heat pumps that has been pending in federal court since 2001.
“Due to the likelihood of a long and uncertain legal process, ARI will no longer pursue litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va. so that manufacturers can prepare for a new, 13 SEER national minimum efficiency standard for residential central air conditioners and heat pumps that will go into effect on Jan. 23, 2006,” Sutton said.
In March of 2001, ARI had requested judicial review of the DOE’s Jan. 22, 2001 final rule requiring a 30 percent increase in the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) for residential air conditioners and heat pumps. ARI supported raising the current standard by 20 percent to 12 SEER standard as economically justified for consumers and the best way to save energy.
On May 23, 2002 following a long review process, DOE withdrew the 13 SEER rule and issued a new regulation stipulating a 12 SEER standard which opponents challenged in a New York court on procedural grounds.
On Jan. 13, 2004, the U.S. Appeals Court for the Second Circuit in New York ruled that DOE in enacting the 12 SEER standard “failed to effect a valid amendment of the original standards’ (13 SEER) effective date, and as a consequence was thereafter prohibited from amending those standards downward.”
Sutton said that “Manufacturers face significant challenges in meeting the deadline for the 13 SEER standard which is less than two years away. The industry needs to know with certainty what the standard will be in order to meet the needs of the marketplace. Because of the approaching effective date and the uncertainty of the court action, ARI has withdrawn its request for review of the 13 SEER rule by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va.”
The current 10 SEER standard, which went into effect in 1992, will continue to be the national minimum efficiency standard for central air conditioners and heat pumps until Jan. 23, 2006 when equipment manufactured after than date must meet the 13 SEER standard.
However, the DOE excluded “space constrained products” no greater than 30,000 Btu/h from the 13 SEER requirement, stating that these products, which include through-the-wall packaged and split, ductless split and single package and non-weatherized equipment, would be covered by a subsequent rulemaking. That rulemaking by DOE is expected to begin later this year. For these products the current minimum efficiency standard will continue until the compliance date set forth in a future DOE final rule covering the products.
The Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute is the trade association representing manufacturers of more than 90 percent of North American produced central air-conditioning and commercial refrigeration equipment.
This and other news items may be found on the Internet at ARI's World Wide Web site, http://www.ari.org.
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