From the Lab to the Marketplace Ten Years Later, Energy Efficient Technologies from Research at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Berkeley Lab logo (left) with six rows of gray dots transitioning to a line art drawing of a cityscape and residential houses.

Appliance Standards

Residential consumers spent $215 billion and commercial consumers spend $154 billion in 20051 on energy for appliances, heating and cooling equipment and lighting, which consumption resulted in 2305 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions2. For many years, Berkeley Lab researchers have provided the technical analysis used by the Department of Energy as it established energy efficiency standards for appliances mandated by law. Berkeley Lab's energy policy work includes analyzing the effects on energy use and costs to manufacturers and consumers of using different technologies to meet the energy performance standards prescribed by law.

These appliance standards have been remarkably successful in their goal of achieving maximum energy efficiency that is both economically justified and technologically feasible. Thanks in part to a series of refrigerator standards researched by Berkeley Lab, the average energy consumption of a U.S. refrigerator dropped 74% between 1974 and 2001. The requirements of the legislation, and Berkeley Lab's work providing a basis for updates, have helped the U.S. become a worldwide leader in energy-efficient appliance standards. These standards currently save U.S. consumers $7 billion per year, which will increase to over $18 billion per year by 2030. Cumulative energy savings through 2006 are 11 EJ, resulting in a reduction of 39 million tons of carbon emissions. Standards already in place are projected to save an additional 40 EJ through 2025, with an additional cumulative reduction in carbon emissions of 67 million tons by 2030.

Shortly after the U.S. passed the National Energy Policy Conservation Act in 1978, Berkeley Lab began working as a contractor to U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), providing the economic and technical analysis for appliance standards. Berkeley Lab scientists developed a unique engineering-based approach for analyzing potential appliance standards. This approach includes an investigation of what technology is possible, and how product markets may react. It doesn't restrict research to available commercial products. The scientists conduct a thorough analysis of the impact the proposed standard would have on consumers, manufacturers, energy suppliers and the general economy. After examining projections of energy savings and associated economic and environmental impacts, the Lab presents DOE with its research regarding a range of potential standards as a scientific basis for DOE's decisions. DOE then conducts a rulemaking procedure that incorporates the comments of all stakeholders in the process.

Berkeley Lab also plays a crucial role in providing objective analysis to the stakeholders in the standards setting process. From 1992 to 1994, Berkeley Lab met with major manufacturers and environmental groups periodically and provided them with consistent reports and data. This allowed these once opposing groups to negotiate a consensus agreement that formed the basis for the refrigerator standards effective in 2001. During the late 1990s, Berkeley Lab provided analysis that facilitated the creation of a number of new standards reached by consensus.

Some samples of Energy Efficiency Guide labels from various countries.

After reviewing its standards-setting process, DOE issued an aggressive five-year plan in 2006. Of seven teams working on DOE's new plan, three of them, Heating Products, Home Appliances, and Transformers and Motors, include Berkeley Lab. The Heating Products team is initially focused on residential furnaces and boilers, with water heaters, direct heating equipment and swimming pool heaters to follow. The Home Appliance team works on dishwashers, cooking products, commercial clothes washers and dehumidifiers. The Transformers and Motors team focuses on distribution transformers, devices that adjust the voltage as it leaves the power line, and electric motors.

Second edition of the "Energy Efficiency Labels and Standards: A Guidebook for Appliances, Equipment, and Lighting"

Berkeley Lab has supported more than forty countries in analyzing their own appliance standards. To help developing countries create standards, Berkeley Lab helped found the Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Program (CLASP) in 1999. (See the sidebar) At the request of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Berkeley Lab scientists wrote a guidebook to the Lab's standards creation process, Energy Efficiency Labels and Standards: A Guidebook for Appliances, Equipment, and Lighting.

At a cost of only nine to ten cents/household/year, the Department of Energy's appliance standards program has resulted in net savings of around $40-60/household/year.3 The program will continue to have an increasing impact as more energy-efficient products are used. Standards prevent the manufacture or import of inefficient models. Although some of the more efficient models may have a higher cost to purchase, they provide consumers with net savings, since reduced energy bills over a few years more than compensate for the increased equipment cost. Berkeley Lab researchers estimate that, on average, consumers end up saving $2.50 to $3 for each extra dollar they spend on energy-efficient products. As technology continues to change, there is further potential for increased energy, economic and environmental savings.

1 Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2007, Table A3. Non-renewable energy expenditures in 2005 (in 2005 dollars), residential and commercial.

2 Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2007, Table A18. Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Sector and Source (million metric tons), sum of residential and commercial sectors in 2005.

3 Stephen Meyers, James McMahon, Michael McNeil. "Realized and Prospective Impacts of U.S. Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential Appliances: 2004 Update." LBNL report LBNL-56417. (Updated report is in preparation in 2007.)