Energy Conservation:

Appliance Standards and Labeling Programs Can Be Improved

RCED-93-102: Published: Mar 24, 1993. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the federal energy efficiency standards program for household appliances.

GAO found that: (1) the Department of Energy (DOE) upgraded efficiency standards for five types of appliances more than 16 months past its required deadline, and will be over 2 years behind schedule in upgrading standards for another nine appliances; (2) the appliance program's workload has increased for upgrading standards, the program's budget has declined, and staffing levels have remained constant; (3) DOE use of sequential, rather than concurrent, reviews for notices of proposed and final standards may have contributed to the delay in upgrading appliance efficiency standards; (4) manufacturers, consumer groups, and others have expressed concern that appliance labels do not effectively inform consumers about appliance energy efficiency and costs; (5) in 1988, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began a voluntary review of the labeling rules and solicited suggestions for changing label formats and content, but the review has been delayed by increased workloads; and (6) DOE and FTC rely on manufacturing association programs that test appliance models at random and compare the energy efficiency of the tested models with manufacturers' energy efficiency claims to ensure compliance with federal efficiency standards and accurate appliance labeling.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To help ensure compliance with the requirements for establishing appliance efficiency standards in both the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the Energy Policy Act of 1992, the Secretary of Energy should allocate resources, after appropriate consideration of competing priorities, that will enable the appliance standards program to comply with statutory deadlines.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE's budget for the appliance program has increased from $3.1 million in 1993 to $8 million in 1994. DOE will request a budget of $11 million in 1995. If DOE's 1995 budget request is granted, staffing will have increased from 3 FTEs in 1992 to 14 in 1995 for the program.

    Recommendation: To help ensure compliance with the requirements for establishing appliance efficiency standards in both the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the Energy Policy Act of 1992, the Secretary of Energy should direct DOE staff to use concurrent steps whenever possible for internal reviews of proposed standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has formalized a concurrent review process. According to the Director, Appliance Standards, DOE's General Counsel and Assistant Secretary for Policy concurrently meet and review all proposed regulatory changes each month.

    Recommendation: To help ensure compliance with federal appliance energy efficiency standards and accurate reporting of efficiency levels, the Secretary of Energy should ask manufacturing associations to test and certify the claimed energy efficiency levels of all appliances that are subject to performance efficiency standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE disagrees with the need for certification programs to test all types of appliances covered by appliance efficiency standards. DOE states that implementing the recommendation would be too costly.

    Recommendation: To assist DOE officials in identifying patterns or recurrent instances of test values that do not meet federal standards, the Secretary of Energy should ask the manufacturing associations to provide DOE with actual test results data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Office of Codes and Standards has withdrawn a request to hire a new staff person to peruse summary test results and initiate enforcement actions. Because of ongoing and anticipated budget reductions, this recommendation is no longer applicable and should be considered closed.

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