EPA Budget Plan Calls for ‘Closeout or Transfer’ of Energy StarMarch 8th, 2017 by Trey Barrineau
A White House budget proposal could dismantle or privatize the Energy Star program, ending a popular federal project that certifies the energy efficiency of thousands of consumer products, including doors, windows and skylights.
The plan would cut Energy Star’s budget down to just $5 million “for the closeout or transfer of all the climate protection voluntary partnership programs,” according to a report from E&E News. Energy Star currently spends about $57 million a year, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
“EPA should begin developing legislative options and associated groundwork for transferring ownership and implementation of Energy Star to a non-governmental entity,” E&E News reports, citing a source who’s viewed the document.
The White House and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which administers Energy Star, are still debating which programs to cut under a wide-ranging overhaul of the agency. According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration wants to reduce EPA’s $8.2 billion budget by 24 percent and eliminate 38 programs.
EPA spokesperson Julia Valentine declined to comment on possible changes to the Energy Star program.
“We are not commenting at this early stage in the process,” she told DWM via e-mail.
The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) expressed support for Energy Star.
“WDMA is aware of very preliminary discussions in the Trump administration about possible cuts to the Energy Star program, although specifics have not been released,” said WDMA president and CEO Michael O’Brien. “While we believe there could be programmatic improvements, the Energy Star program has been very successful in promoting high-efficiency windows, doors and skylights that have saved consumers billions over the years. We will be working with the administration and Congress to work through these budget issues over the coming months.”
About 300 fenestration companies are listed as partners on the Energy Star website. Most heavily promote their participation in the program in advertising material and press releases.
The National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), which provides the U-factor and solar heat gain coefficient ratings used in the Energy Star program for doors, windows and skylights, also hopes it survives.
“As a government-backed program, Energy Star has significant credibility with U.S. consumers,” said NFRC CEO Deb Callahan. “It helps them make sound decisions when purchasing windows, doors and skylights intended to reduce their energy bills, and we encourage its ongoing operation.”
Many Wonder ‘Why Now?’
Energy-efficiency advocates expressed concern about plans to eliminate Energy Star.
“We are alarmed by these reports,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE). “Energy Star is a hugely successful program – the most successful public-private partnership we’ve ever had, with more than 16,000 companies and organizations participating. To pull the rug out from under it is just beyond short-sighted. It is an incredible success story that should be celebrated, not cast aside.”
ASE launched an online campaign urging Congress to protect Energy Star.
“We strongly support the Energy Star program,” said Lowell Ungar, senior policy adviser at the ACEEE. “This is a voluntary government program that works—indeed, it’s the leading voluntary energy-efficiency program in the world. Bottom line: it helps consumers save money. They estimate consumers who bought Energy Star products and participated in their programs saved $34 billion in 2015, and a cumulative total of $430 billion through 2015. It is a remarkably successful brand recognized by almost 90 percent of Americans. And it helps businesses market better products. We don’t see why anyone would want to take that away.”
Ungar also told E&E News that an Energy Star program run by industry groups would not carry as much credibility with the public.
“An internal industry label is not going to be as effective, is not going to be as reliable,” he said. “The consumers aren’t going to know whether that really is representing energy savings and savings in their wallet.”
However, door and window industry groups already supply widely used standards and ratings for energy efficiency and overall performance — including those incorporated into Energy Star — and much of that information is accessible to the public.
In addition to NFRC’s thermal ratings, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) develops standards, ratings and test procedures for air leakage, water leakage and structural strength. Both NFRC and AAMA have consumer-friendly sections on their websites, and certification labels from both organizations appear on millions of fenestration products.
A Surprising Proposal
President Trump vowed to get rid of the EPA “in almost every form” when he was running for office. Since his election, most media coverage has focused on how the new administration’s environmental deregulation drive could boost domestic production of oil, natural gas and coal. Trump, who made his fortune in construction, has said little about energy efficiency in buildings, and the Republican platform adopted at the 2016 convention in Cleveland didn’t mention it, either.
Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT), a Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on improving energy efficiency in buildings, told DWM in January that he didn’t think Energy Star would be going anywhere under the new administration.
“It’s obviously very difficult to know what the future holds, but the voluntary Energy Star program is pretty broadly popular with builders and manufacturers around the country who like it and use it, so I think that kind of broad industry support is likely to be something that would carry the day with the Trump administration,” said Majersik. “I think it’s pretty unlikely that they would eliminate the Energy Star program, or even make fundamental changes.”
Energy Star was founded in 1992 by the EPA and the Department of Energy. Since then, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union have adopted the program.