Vermont Doubles Down on Efficiency Standards, Enacts New Law

Posted on by
Chris Granda

Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed 16 new state appliance efficiency standards into law on May 21, making the Green Mountain state the first to enact ASAP’s current set of recommended state standards. House Bill H.410, introduced by Representative Marcia Gardner and championed by Representative Curtis McCormack and Senators Christopher Bray and Christopher Pearson, passed with strong support from Republican, Democratic, and Independent Vermont lawmakers.

H.410 reinforces Vermont’s role as a national leader in energy efficiency policy. Vermont’s new appliance standards cover a variety of products, including computers and monitors, air compressors, and showerheads. A significant share of the projected savings will come from reducing hot water waste. By 2025 the standards will save Vermont consumers and businesses 435 million gallons of water and 59 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity annually, enough to supply more than 7,000 VT households each year. The bill also saves significant amounts of oil, propane, and natural gas. The total annual energy and water savings for Vermont are projected to be worth $17 million per year. This saved energy means Vermont will also avoid 21,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually by 2025.

The savings from Vermont’s new standards will build on the benefits already being delivered to all Americans by the current portfolio of federal efficiency standards, which save Vermont households and businesses $190 million annually, and avoid 340,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. (Last year ASAP published a report that estimated the benefits from national standards. Fact sheets for each state are available here.) 

In the face of recent federal inaction, Vermont and other states are stepping forward to ensure continued progress in efficiency standards. Three of the new Vermont standards are identical to federal standards that the Trump administration has refused to implement (they were completed at the end of the Obama administration). Eleven states, including Vermont, are currently suing the US Department of Energy to force implementation of these standards (covering air compressors, portable air conditioners, and uninterruptible power supplies). Now Vermont has upped the ante by adopting the three withheld federal standards into state law.

Vermont is also the first state to issue efficiency standards for a type of fluorescent tube lighting — an important step in the fight to close a critical loophole in the existing federal standards for fluorescent tubes (with similar action expected in the near future in California and possibly other states). Vermont is also the first state to enact energy efficiency standards for three additional types of commercial kitchen equipment, residential ventilation fans, and spray sprinkler bodies. The seven remaining standards in H.410 (computers and computer monitors, faucets, showerheads, urinals, portable electric spas, hot food holding cabinets, and water coolers) follow the lead set by California and other states. Past state standards have, in many cases, paved the way for national standards for the affected products. As noted by Rep. McCormack:

“The primary purpose of this whole legislation is to influence the federal government to set national standards. It doesn’t take very many states before industry wants the same standards nationwide for ease of selling and distributing these products. We get an amazing amount of energy savings when these standards go national.”

In 2017 Governor Scott also signed H.411 (Act 42), enacting all existing federal standards into Vermont law, thereby helping to protect them from rollbacks at the federal level. The new law, H.410, makes sure that new standards continue to move forward.

Together, the two bills cover most of the provisions included in ASAP’s model state energy efficiency standards legislation. As the first state to enact the recommended standards, Vermont’s experience provides a template for similar legislation being considered in other states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The Vermont legislature and Governor Scott deserve credit for passing common sense energy efficiency standards that save energy and water, save consumers money, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.