Legislation + Regulation

DOE Proposes Revision of Lamps Covered by Energy Standards (Updated)

Today, the Department of Energy (DOE) proposed a revision of definitions of certain types of lamps covered by general-service lamp energy efficiency standards.

In January 2017, DOE published two final rules concerning the definition of general-service lamps, which resulted in the energy standards being applied to certain categories of lamps previously excluded, such as 3-way lamps, reflector lamps, candelabra lamps, and decorative globe-shaped lamps.

On February 6, DOE issued a new proposed rulemaking, stating: “DOE has since determined that the legal basis underlying those revisions misconstrued existing law. As a result, DOE is issuing this notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) proposing to withdraw the definitions established in the January 19, 2017, final rules. DOE proposes to maintain the existing regulatory definitions of GSL and GSIL, which are the same as the statutory definitions of those terms.”

In other words, DOE is reverting to the way things were before January 2017, with the same exclusion of reflector lamps, and the same exemptions.

Environmental groups quickly protested the move, saying this will result in a lost opportunity for energy savings.

Noah Horowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council: “This is another senseless and illegal Trump administration rollback that will needlessly hike our energy bills and spew tons more pollution into the air, harming the health of our children and the environment. Even with today’s highly efficient LED light bulbs on the market, Trump’s Department of Energy wants to keep 2.7 billion of our lighting sockets mired in a world of dinosaur, energy-guzzling lighting technology that basically hasn’t been updated for more than a hundred years. What’s worse, DOE is making such a dangerous proposal despite the recent dire warnings about the fate of our planet if we don’t urgently address climate change. This is yet another Trump administration move that is almost certainly going to end up in court.”

ACEEE’s Steve Nadel: “In its rush to deregulate, the Trump administration is hurting consumers’ pocketbooks and public health … DOE’s plan would also stifle innovation, eliminating a powerful regulatory incentive for manufacturers and retailers to invest in high quality, energy-efficient LED light bulbs.”

While being described by some as a “rollback,” however, is it such, or is it simply a correction? Arguably, for example, DOE should not have lumped reflector lamps, which are separately regulated in detail, into the general-service lamp definition and standards. DOE concluded it had no statutory justification for the revised definitions.

In a February 7 press release, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) stated: “In a proposed rule released on February 6th, DOE stated that it misconstrued existing law and could not legally justify its January 2017 definitions of general service incandescent lamp and general service lamp and that the department was proposing to align DOE definitions with those established by Congress in 2007 because that reflected what Congress intended … NEMA concurs with DOE analysis that it is not rolling back any Standards applicable to these lamps. It is not legally possible to backslide from a point DOE could not legally stand upon in the first place. To think otherwise would erode the rule of law and the primacy of Congress in establishing public policy. Important for the upcoming policy discussion on energy conservation Standards for these lamps will be the recognition that consumers, retailers, and manufacturers have, without government regulation, already driven energy savings in the general service lamp category far faster than anyone could have imagined just a few years ago.”

The big remaining question is what happens in January 2020. Will the Energy Independence and Security Act’s backstop provision take effect? If so, this will require all general-service lamps to have a minimum efficacy of at least 45 lumens/W. As I understand it, this would result in the virtual elimination of halogen A-lamps.

DOE stated in its rulemaking: “Further, if the Secretary determines that the standards in effect for GSILs should be amended, EPCA provides that a final rule must be published by January 1, 2017, with a compliance date at least 3 years after the date on which the final rule is published. (42 U.S.C. 6295(i)(6)(A)(iii)) In developing such a rule, DOE must consider a minimum efficacy standard of 45 lumens per watt (lm/W). (42 U.S.C. 6295(i)(6)(A)(ii)) If DOE fails to complete a rulemaking in accordance with 42 U.S.C. 6295(i)(6)(A)(i)-(iv) or a final rule from the first rulemaking cycle does not produce savings greater than or equal to the savings from a minimum efficacy standard of 45 lm/W, the statute provides a “backstop” under which DOE must prohibit sales of GSLs that do not meet a minimum 45 lm/W standard beginning on January 1, 2020. (42 U.S.C. 6295(i)(6)(A)(v)).” (italics mine for emphasis)

Later in the rulemaking document, DOE added: “Moreover, DOE has not yet made a final determination on whether standards applicable to GSILs should be amended, and, therefore, no backstop energy conservation standard has yet been imposed.”

See the DOE proposed rulemaking here.

Stay tuned on this one. The draft rule is open for public comment for 60 days and may be challenged in court.

author avatar
Craig DiLouie

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