COVID-19 slows state appliance standards efforts, but some states defy odds

Several states were oh-so-close to adopting appliance efficiency standards when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. By mid-March, the Maine House had passed LD 1750 and the Senate was set to vote on it. The Massachusetts Senate had adopted a bill and the House energy committee had favorably reported a similar bill out of committee. Momentum was building for bills in Connecticut, Hawaii, and Rhode Island. Other states, including Pennsylvania, had filed bills for the first time. Needless to say, COVID-19 changed everything, switching priorities, closing legislatures, and leaving very good bills to languish.

Despite the difficult circumstances, several states managed to keep appliance efficiency standards moving forward. Most of the states filed bills with between 15 and 19 products, including computers and monitors, EV chargers, restaurant equipment, and several water-using products such as faucets and showerheads.

Massachusetts: The Roadmap climate bill, adopted by the House on July 31, included an amendment offered by Representative Josh Cutler to adopt efficiency standards for 17 products. The amendment tracks with the bill originally filed by Rep. Cutler, H.4551. A similar bill, S.2499 sponsored by Senator Jason Lewis, passed the Senate in January 2020. The bills are currently under review in conference committee. Normally, conference committee reports are due by July 31, but this year the deadline was extended after delays related to COVID-19.

District of Columbia: The DC Council Committee of the Whole and the Transportation and Environment Committee held a hearing in December 2019 on bill 23-0104, the Energy Efficiency Standards Amendment Act of 2019. The bill would update existing standards and add new products to the list of appliance efficiency standards, for a total of 18 products covered (though three of the products have since been preempted by federal standards). The Council recently finalized a number of COVID-19 bills and their 2021 budget, hopefully making way for non-COVID related bills to be heard before the end of the session. DC has not updated appliance standards since 2007.

Nevada: The Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy recently completed a rulemaking for light bulb regulations. Though Nevada adopted the 45 lumen per watt light bulb standards in 2019 (AB54), the regulation was held up by opposition from the Nevada Resorts Association (NRA). After negotiations between the NRA, NRDC, and the Nevada Conservation League, each of the parties signed on to a consensus recommendation which exempts some specialty bulbs that are used by the hospitality and casino industries. The agreement was submitted to the Governor’s Office of Energy which adopted the revised regulations on August 24, 2020.

New Jersey: Environmental and efficiency advocates are working with legislators who plan to introduce appliance standards legislation for nearly 20 products in both chambers this fall. New Jersey last adopted appliance standards in 2005.

Oregon: In March, Governor Kate Brown signed an Executive Order directing the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) to “establish and update energy efficiency standards for products at least to levels equivalent to the most stringent standards among West Coast jurisdictions” by September 1, 2020. In July, ODOE released draft regulations that include a performance standard for grid-connected water heaters and efficiency standards for computers, commercial dishwashers, fryers, and steamers, high CRI fluorescent lamps, showerheads, faucets, portable electric spas, residential ventilating fans, and water coolers. The standards require legislative approval.