Changes likely after investigation finds weaknesses in program
In March, the Government Accountability Office completed a nine-month investigation that found weaknesses in the ENERGY STAR program created by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 to rate consumer products’ energy efficiency.
The GAO, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog agency, submitted fake products, such as a gasoline-powered alarm clock, and listed nonexistent companies for evaluation. At the end of its audit, the GAO found ENERGY STAR to be primarily a self-certification program “vulnerable to fraud and abuse.”
The EPA responded: “We take this report very seriously. We welcome all efforts, internal or external, to improve the (ENERGY STAR) program. That’s why we have started an enhanced testing program and have already taken enforcement actions against companies that violated the rules.”
The GAO review follows other ENERGY STAR concerns. The New York Times reported last October that some manufacturers were testing appliances for ENERGY STAR certification internally instead of using independent laboratories.
ENERGY STAR reacted by increasing oversight of product ratings. It revoked the ENERGY STAR label for some refrigerators while raising the bar for efficiency expected from TVs.
Starting this year, ENERGY STAR is expanding third-party evaluations and implementing a two-step internal testing process to broaden the evaluation of ENERGY STAR-qualified products.
—National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
ENERGY STAR proves popular with public
Most households recognize ENERGY STAR label
Consumers have largely embraced the ENERGY STAR program.
A survey by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency—a group including members such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bonneville Power Administration, a federal power marketing agency in the Northwest—found that 77 percent of American households recognize the ENERGY STAR label. Of these consumers, 73 percent purchased an ENERGY STAR-labeled product within the last year.
Federal energy-efficiency tax credits for appliances and home heating and air-conditioning systems typically require qualifying products to be ENERGY STAR-rated. As always, research a product before making a purchase.
EPA assures public about rating system
A 2009 EPA review found 98 percent of ENERGY STAR-rated products tested met or exceeded requirements. Devices carrying the ENERGY STAR logo, such as computers and electronics, kitchen and household appliances, residential lighting, and windows, deliver the same or better performance and use 20 percent to 30 percent less energy on average than comparable models.
“ENERGY STAR uses a series of checks to ensure consumers are getting products that cut energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions,” explains a joint statement from the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy, a partner with EPA on the ENERGY STAR program.
“One of the reasons the system has worked…is that manufacturers have a market incentive to test competitors’ products and report violations, which supports the program’s own independent testing, verification, and enforcement initiatives.”