How energy efficient are your computers, appliances?

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Energy efficient appliances can save consumers money and help Oregon meet its climate goals

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Climate pollutants are often associated with images of cars, power plants, or manufacturing facilitiesthings that often feel too big for any one person to tackle.

While the Oregon Climate Action Plan (EO 20-04) adopted by Gov. Kate Brown in March addresses many “big ticket” climate items like capping emissions on industry and reducing the carbon intensity of transportation fuels, it also includes directives that pave the way for individual action to help achieve our state climate goals, such as energy efficiency standards for household appliances and commercial products.

The executive order requires the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) to update and establish new energy efficiency standards for specific products including but not limited to computers, shower heads, faucets, and fluorescent lights. Under OCAP, the new standards must maximize energy efficiency to be at least equal to the strongest standards on the West Coast. It’s time for Oregon to catch up.

Stronger appliance standards will give Oregonians the opportunity to reduce their personal energy consumption and save money on their utility bills–all while helping to transition Oregon to a clean energy economy and cutting harmful climate pollution.

As highlighted in ODOE’s recent report on executive order implementation, appliance standards are an important energy-saving tool. Buildings themselves will become more energy efficient, for example with more insulation and fewer air leaks. But we’re increasingly plugging in more things and can lose ground if our electronics and appliances aren’t also getting more efficient. By setting a minimum level of energy efficiency for household appliances and commercial products, energy efficiency standards give Oregonians the chance to save energy and water, while lowering utility bill costs.

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Stronger efficiency standards mean significant cost-savings for Oregonians: ODOE has estimated that the directed energy efficiency standards alone could save Oregon consumers $35 million per year by 2025 and more than $100 million per year by 2035. 

At the same time, reducing energy consumption means less harmful climate pollution from generating electricity. Initial ODOE staff analysis found that updating and establishing efficiency standards for the products identified in OCAP could result in annual reductions of 76,500 metric tons of carbon emissions by 2025, and 132,500 metric tons of carbon by 2035 (equal to burning 15 million gallons of gasoline). 

Strong efficiency standards are critical to transitioning Oregon to a clean energy economy. While the federal government has established some national appliance efficiency standards, the current administration has proposed damaging rollbacks to these programs, making state-level progress to improve efficiency all the more vital to achieving our climate goals. Not to mention, OCAP’s protections will help ensure that Oregon remains aligned and competitive with its neighbors in the West Coast marketplace.

Tony Hernandez

But the benefits aren’t limited to what is specifically listed under OCAP. ODOE is currently seeking input on its energy efficiency rulemaking plans. Here are two key issues to look out for and advocate around as ODOE moves forward with its rulemaking:

  • Equity: ODOE’s preliminary report previewing its plans for rulemaking only addresses new appliances. It is important that as a state, we continue to address how vulnerable and impacted communities, including low-income families, will access efficient appliances. As the rulemaking moves forward, it is critical that ODOE ensure an inclusive decision making process.
  • Scope: OCAP directs ODOE to establish or update standards for 10 specific categories of products. However, ODOE’s rulemaking is not limited to that prescribed list–there are many additional categories of products that they could consider including.

Over the next few months, ODOE will move forward with its rulemaking process, with the goal of publishing final rules by September 1, 2020. Once approved by the legislature, the new standards will go into effect. That means Oregonians can look forward to cleaner, more efficient options on store shelves and in homes and businesses as soon as next year. Stay tuned for updates from OEC as this and other OCAP rulemakings progress!


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