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September - October 2002

Energy &Environment

DOE Listens to Industry; Withdraws ENERGY STAR® Proposal

While some people in the industry, may think their voice is not always heard, a recent move by the Department of Energy (DOE) may prove them wrong. 

When the DOE proposed its new criteria for ENERGY STAR® windows, doors and skylights on May 8, 2002, many in the industry who were unhappy with the proposal flooded the DOE with comments (see July/August DWM/BCM, page 42). This prompted the DOE to withdraw its proposal on June 28, 2002 and maintain the current criteria, according to David K. Garman, assistant secretary, energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

“We received numerous insightful comments, including some alternative proposals, that warrant serious consideration,” said Garman. “By withdrawing the proposal, I hope to avoid confusion in the marketplace and avoid [having] our partners making premature investments in product or marketing plans.”

Garman said the issue of solar heat gain contributed to the withdraw of the proposal. “I am particularly troubled by the lack of empirical data on the role of solar-heat gain in certain regions of the country and feel further analysis is warranted before we can make a clear determination on this question,” he said. 

“This was a valid decision,” said Pilkington’s Paul Gore. “The proposed criteria would have virtually eliminated high-solar-heat-gain low-E products from being sold in the marketplace (generally produced by the pyrolitic process).”

Gore added that by withdrawing the proposed criteria and maintaining the current criteria, manufacturers will continue to realize the benefits of fabricating a pyrolitic product and consumers will continue to have choices in regards to reducing their energy costs.

Atofina’s John Siegel said he also supports the DOE’s decision to withdraw its proposal. “They were putting forth a proposal without evaluating the impact on individual energy performance,” he said. “It would have been a grave mistake to go through with the old proposal.”

So why did the DOE decide to withdraw their proposal now, after having introduced it in the first place? According to Gore, an increased amount of people in the industry voiced their concerns once the proposal was introduced on May 8. “The volume was really turned up,” said Gore. “A lot of people even copied their elected officials on letters.”

The DOE says it has received various alternate proposals from the industry, including one from Pilkington. Gore says this proposal is modified slightly from the one the company introduced earlier this year. The new proposal divides the Central region into a Northern Central and a Southern Central region. “The climates are different in New York City and Phoenix,” said Gore. “The current proposal says one performance parameter works for both locations.

“We believe our proposal is valid and that it actually saves more energy than the DOE’s original proposal,” Gore added. “It maintains consumer choice and delivers the consumer a competitive market environment where there are two low-E technologies in the marketplace, reduced cost for the product and an alternate means to achieve energy efficiency.” 

According to Garman, a new proposal will be subject to public review and comment. “While I cannot assign a timeline to this process, it is clear we will incur a significant delay beyond the January 1, 2003, implementation date we had hoped to achieve,” he said. 

Just so the mistakes of the past are not repeated Siegel suggests that prior to the introduction of the new proposal, DOE should suggest a process for evaluating the various proposals; one that the industry can make comments on even before the new proposal is introduced. “This would make sure they cover everything and that the process is objective,” said Siegel. For example, he said that the DOE should have compared the energy-performance impacts of the various proposals to the current ENERGY STAR requirements, instead of to 1998 distribution sales as was the case. 

Although the withdrawal means that introduction of the new ENERGY STAR criteria will be delayed, the industry would rather have a sound proposal than one that most are unhappy with. “We want to make sure the new proposal is analyzed and evaluated fully,” said Gore. 

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