AC Manufacturer, Low-income Groups, Environmentalists, States, and Utilities Urge Administration to Keep 30% Stronger AC Standard


Tuesday, October 2, 2001

Andrew deLaski, 617-515-7755 or
Kalee Kreider, National Environmental Trust, 202-887-8818
Ramola Masante, representing Goodman Global Holdings, 202-661-6197
David Nemtzow, Alliance to Save Energy, 202-857-0666


Energy Department Plan to Weaken Efficiency Draws Criticism at Public Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A coalition including the nation's second largest air conditioner manufacturer, low income advocacy organizations, environmentalists, state government agencies and a major utility today urged the Bush administration to keep the strong central air conditioning efficiency standards set in January. The Department of Energy held a public hearing today regarding its plan to roll back the new efficiency requirement from Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) of 13 to SEER 12.

"This coalition has come together to urge the Administration to let stand the SEER 13 standard," said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. "By keeping the SEER 13 standard, the Bush Administration will improve power reliability and mitigate electricity price spikes, save consumers money on their electricity bills, reduce public health problems caused by air pollution, and curb greenhouse gas emissions."

The SEER 13 standard is a 30% improvement over the original air conditioner standard set by Congress in 1987. The new standard was finalized in January at the end of a seven year long public rulemaking process. The Administration first decided to pursue a plan to weaken the standard in April.

"As the nation strives to improve our energy security, increased support for improved efficiency must be central to a balanced policy for reducing our dependence on volatile fossil fuel markets and vulnerable electricity supply systems," said David Nemtzow, President of the Alliance to Save Energy. "Improved efficiency is an inherently secure way to meet the energy needs of our economy and it is unaffected by supply or price disruptions."

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the SEER 13 standard will avoid the need for as many as 190 new central station power plants and the related transmission system infrastructure thereby making a contribution to the Administration's and the nation's work to improve our energy security.

"This proposal is out of step with the times," said Kalee Kreider of the National Environmental Trust. "It cuts a crucial energy efficiency standard just when we should be increasing efforts to make sure we have a safe and secure energy supply."

Testimony Rebuts Energy Department's Reasons for the Rollback

In proposing the rollback to a weaker standard, the Department of Energy (DOE) argued that a SEER 13 standard is too expensive for consumers, especially the poor, and too costly for manufacturers. Testimony provided today from low-income advocacy groups and Goodman Global Holdings, Inc. rebutted the Department's claims.

"Weakening this standard would be particularly harmful to low-income households," said Charlie Harak, Energy Project Attorney with the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC). "Among those low income households that actually have central air conditioners, most rent their homes. Like other renters, they do not make equipment purchases, yet they benefit from savings on their energy bills."

NCLC represents low-income tenant organizations and their members. Other organizations representing consumer interests that testified or joined comments in favor of keeping the SEER 13 standard include the Consumer Federation of America, the Texas Ratepayers Organization to Save Energy, the National Consumers League, and others.

"SEER 13 is not a burdensome standard for the manufacturers," said Doug Marty, Executive Vice President of Goodman Global Holdings. "The SEER 13 technology has been available to both large companies like Goodman and small manufacturers for almost fifteen years. Virtually all manufacturers have been and do produce 13 SEER equipment today, which is five years in advance of the standard going into effect. This is not a big change for us - it's just a matter of using more efficient components in our basic product lines." Goodman Global Holdings owns Goodman Manufacturing, the second largest air conditioner manufacturer and maker of Amana®, Goodman®, GmC®, and Janitrol® brand equipment.

For smaller companies or specialty products, the efficiency rule allows for separate product classes and exemptions where small manufacturers might be unduly burdened.

The Department of Energy estimates that the SEER 13 standard will add $122 to the cost of a central air conditioner - two to six percent of the typical $2,000 to $5,000 price tag for a new central AC system. ACEEE expects the extra costs will be between zero and $75. In either case, the efficiency improvements will pay for themselves several times over during the eighteen-year lifetime of a central air conditioner for most consumers.

Separate from today's public hearing, a group of states including New York, Connecticut, California, Maine and Vermont and environmental and low-income advocacy groups have challenged the DOE's rollback action in federal court.

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The Appliance Standards Awareness Project is dedicated to increasing understanding of and support for national appliance and equipment energy efficiency standards. ASAP is sponsored by leading environmental groups, consumer groups and state government and utilities.