Vermont House Passes Backup Bill on Energy Efficient Appliances

The Vermont House approved a bill (HB-411) on March 22 that would put energy efficiency standards for residential, commercial, and industrial appliances into effect in Vermont if Congress or the White House were to eliminate national Energy Star standards, the Vermont Digger reported.

The purpose of the act, as defined by the House Committee on Energy and Technology, “is to adopt federal appliance and lighting efficiency standards in effect on January 19, 2017, so that the same standards will be in place in Vermont should the federal standards be repealed or voided. The act  also adopts federal standards for general service lighting that have been  adopted by the U.S. Department of Energy and are scheduled to come into effect on January 20, 2020, again so that the same standards will be in place in  Vermont. “

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget features dramatic cuts to an array of government functions, including energy efficiency, in order to expand military spending.

The office that administers the program, a branch of the Department of Energy called the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, is expected to be defunded or otherwise hobbled through Trump’s budget, said the committee’s vice chairman, Rep. Curt McCormack (D-Burlington).

The state legislature is trying to avert an explicit repeal of the standards, McCormack told the local news outlet. “We’re trying to get the states to convince Congress and the president not to repeal” or otherwise prevent enforcement of the efficiency standards, McCormack said. “One way of doing that is to say, ‘We’re going to do it if you don’t.’”

The bill represents Vermont’s bid to join in a larger effort undertaken by numerous other states, McCormack told the Vermont Digger.

California is one of them, having already adopted a law that will automatically establish within state borders whatever efficiency standards Congress or the president nullifies, said Chris Granda, a Richmond-based senior researcher with the Appliance Standards Awareness Project – a collaborative program of the Alliance to Save Energy, the American Council for an Energy Efficient economy, and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“The reason for [the Vermont legislation] is to follow California’s lead and make it more difficult for extremists in the White House and Congress to eliminate energy efficiency standards at the federal level,” Granda told the newspaper.

Efficiency standards have saved individuals and companies money and have helped to protect the environment, Granda said.

“If Congress and the Trump administration are successful in repealing or rolling back federal energy-efficiency standards, it will truly be a radical act that’ll be fairly unique in the world,” he said. “Most industrial countries have energy-efficiency standards. This is an aspect of modern, industrial civilization that’s widely acknowledged to be a beneficial thing.”

Such standards are common in large part because they save consumers money, said Sarah Wolfe in an interview with the local news outlet. A clean energy advocate for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. She noted that Vermont households save around $550 each year from energy efficiency savings – or about 20 percent of a Vermonter’s average energy bill.

This is the most important energy policy you’ve never heard of,” Wolfe said. “No one is even aware these standards exist, they just benefit from them.”

In fact, the average cost of efficient appliances has decreased by an average of $12 since the standards went into effect, she said.

The program is expected to have saved Americans a cumulative $1 trillion by 2020, and $2 trillion by 2030, according to Department of Energy estimates. This latter sum represents an energy savings equivalent to what the entire United States consumes in a year, according to the DOE.

The Vermont bill now will  go to the state’s Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee for consideration.

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