2007 Energy Bill a Mixed Bag

March 09, 2008
March/April 2008
A version of this article appears in the March/April 2008 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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It would be easy to think that the 2007 Energy Bill, signed by President Bush at the end of last year, was all about automotive fuel economy. The legislation that requires fleet wide average fuel economy for cars and light trucks to reach 35 miles per gallon by 2020 has generated a lot of buzz. On the negative side, the lack of strong support for renewable fuels such as wind and solar has generated some buzz as well. But there is a lot in the bill that is positive for residential buildings—not enough to tackle problems like our addiction to fossil fuel and the specter of climate change, but certainly a step in the right direction.

Here are some home energy highlights, thanks to a summary of the bill by the Alliance to Save Energy.

Appliance energy efficiency. The bill establishes new external power supply efficiency standards, based on the standards of California and other states; updates and creates new appliance efficiency standards and test procedures and provides for a regular review of those procedures; updates boiler efficiency standards and creates an electricity use standard for furnace fans; creates regional, climate specific standards for furnaces, air conditioners, and heat pumps; sets a deadline for revising standards for battery chargers and creates a standard for the energy use of electronics in standby mode; and directs the FTC to require energy labels for televisions, personal computer monitors, cable and set top boxes, and digital video recorders.

Building efficiency. The 2007 Energy Bill directs DOE to set standards for manufactured housing that are at least as stringent as the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) national model code. There are also lots of provisions to increase the energy and water efficiency of government buildings and to create green building demonstration projects. The latter’s effect on housing? The government’s purchasing power moves whole industries—in this case it moves the building industry in the right direction.

Lighting. The Energy Bill directs DOE to set performance standards for general service light bulbs to achieve a 25%–30% savings compared to incandescent bulbs by 2012 to 2014, expands the type of incandescent reflector lamps that are subject to efficiency standards, and sets a new federal standard for metal halide lamp fixtures. The bill also directs DOE to establish Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prizes for development of solid-state lighting.

Green jobs. The Energy Bill authorizes a Department of Labor energy efficiency and renewable energy worker training program, and establishes within the Office of Solar Energy Technologies a grant program to create and strengthen solar industry workforce training and internship programs for installation, operation, and maintenance of solar energy devices.

The Bill also supports the recommendations offered by a group from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, including that of Home Energy’s Technical Editor Steve Greenberg, for greening the “capitol complex,” a set of buildings in Washington D.C. including the Capitol, office buildings, and the capital complex power plant. (No mention is made of heat energy recovery efforts from the chambers where the Congress does its business.)

Like all legislation, it doesn’t mean much until the money is appropriated to support all these efforts, since some of the legislation comes with an allocated budget and some does not. But still, there are some things to be hopeful about in home building energy efficiency, as well as for our cars and trucks.


Jim Gunshinan is Home Energy’s managing editor.
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