Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law: Department of Energy Will Use Full-Fuel-Cycle Analysis When Determining Energy Conservation Standards for Appliances

Columbia Law School Center for Climate Change Law


 Cullen Howe  By J. Cullen Howe, Environmental Law Specialist, Arnold & Porter LLP

On August 18, 2011, the Department of Energy said in a policy statement (Energy Conservation Program for Consumer Products and Certain Commercial and Industrial Equipment: Statement of Policy for Adopting Full-Fuel-Cycle Analyses Into Energy Conservation Standards Program) published in the Federal Register that it will use a full-fuel-cycle analysis of appliance energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when it determines energy conservation standards.  The full-fuel-cycle measures will provide a more accurate assessment of the appliances and equipment's total energy use and GHG emissions than measurements currently being used.  The current appliance efficiency standards, which are based on the National Energy Modeling System, rely on point-of-use measurements, which take into account only the energy consumed to operate the appliance.  DOE said that it will continue to use that modeling system, but the new measurements also will include the energy consumed in extracting, processing, and transporting fuels to run the appliance.  DOE said it also will collaborate with the Federal Trade Commission to ensure the energy efficiency and GHG emissions data are made readily available to consumers in a way that can be easily compared.

In August 2010, DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy published a notice indicating its intent to begin using full-fuel-cycle (FFC) measures of energy use and GHGs and other emissions in the national impact analyses and environmental assessments included in rulemakings for future energy conservation standards.  The FFC measure includes point-of-use energy, the energy losses associated with generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity, and the energy consumed in extracting, processing, and transporting or distributing primary fuels.  DOE stated that using the FFC measure in these analyses will provide more complete information about the total energy use and GHG emissions associated with a specific energy efficiency level rather than the primary energy measures currently used by DOE.  DOE also indicated that utilizing the FFC measure for environmental assessments and national impact analyses would not require alteration of the measures used to determine the energy efficiency of covered products because the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), as amended, requires that such measures be based solely on the energy consumed at the point of use.

Section 1802 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 directed DOE to commission a study with the National Academy of Sciences to examine whether the goals of energy conservation standards are best served by measurement of energy consumed, and efficiency improvements at, the actual point-of-use or through the use of the FFC, beginning at the source of energy production.  The study, Review of Site (Point-of-Use) and Full-Fuel-Cycle Measurement Approaches to DOE/EERE Building Appliance Energy-Efficiency Standards, was completed in May 2009 and included five recommendations.  The Academy's primary recommendation was that "DOE consider moving over time to use of a FFC measure of energy consumption for assessment of national and environmental impact, especially levels of GHG emissions, and to providing more comprehensive information to the public through labels and other means such as an enhanced Web site."

Reprinted with permission from Green Building Law Update Service.

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J. Cullen Howe is an environmental law specialist at Arnold & Porter LLP. Much of Cullen's work focuses on climate change, where he attempts to educate lawyers and the public at large on the enormous cooperation necessary to adequately address this problem. In addition to his work on climate change, Cullen is the managing editor of Environmental Law in New York, edits the Environmental Law Practice Guide, Brownfields Law and Practice, the Environmental Impact Review in New York, and has drafted chapters in the Environmental Law Practice Guide on climate change and green building. Mr. Howe is a graduate of Vermont Law School, where he was the managing editor of the Vermont Law Review, and a graduate of DePauw University, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

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