As mentioned in a previous post, an attendee at one of my workshops asked about flaws reported in the Energy Star program. Here’s what I’ve learned:
- The Government Accountability Office (GAO) played “secret shopper,” or in this case secret manufacturer, and tried to get some crazy products certified by the Energy Start program – gas powered alarm clock anyone? Of 20 fictitious products 15 were certified which was a clear sign the program is unreliable. Their report was released in March and was widely covered in the press.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DoE) announced in mid-April, 2010 that they were enacting “sweeping changes” to safeguard the program and restore credibility:
- Manufacturers wishing to qualify their products as Energy Star must submit complete lab reports and results for review and approval by EPA prior to labeling;
- Test results must be from an EPA/DoE approved and accredited lab.
- Lab testing will now be required for all 60 product categories, previously they were only required for certain categories like windows, doors, skylights and compact fluorescent lighting.
- The EPA will no longer rely on an automated approval process.
- The DOE conducted off-the-shelf product testing for some of the most common household appliances and a recent Inspector General audit found that 98% of products tested fully complied with Energy Star requirements.
While these changes were necessary and their delay in being enacted could be blamed on the explosive growth of the program there now is a haze of doubt surrounding the once comforting light blue Energy Star label we all have learned to look for. Another consideration is that there is additional cost for manufacturers to have their products certified due to the required lab results, adding to the oft-heard complaint that it costs more to be green/innovate green.
My take on the Energy Star program is that it is better than nothing. Consumers are awash in products claiming to be energy efficient and the Energy Star program is one of few tools available to help cut through the chatter to what really pays off. I say we not dismiss Energy Star but give it the chance it deserves to redeem itself in the wake of the GAO findings.