A new proposal from the Donald Trump administration would cut the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by 24 percent and eliminate 38 of its programs, including the Energy Star program, according to a report from E&E News.
The energy industry wire service received a leaked copy of the preliminary budget proposal on Monday. Included in the budget is a plan to slash Energy Star, a program that helps businesses and consumers save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices, and all related programs.
The proposal would leave $5 million "for the closeout or transfer of all the climate protection voluntary partnership programs," according to a source who read the document. The draft budget reportedly suggests the EPA “should begin developing legislative options and associated groundwork for transferring ownership and implementation of Energy Star to a non-governmental entity."
A spokesperson for the EPA told International Business Times the agency is not commenting at this early stage of the process. However, voices from around the industry have chimed in to defend the program, which has been touted as “the most successful voluntary energy efficiency movement in history.”
Kateri Callahan, the president of the Alliance to Save Energy, told IBT her organization is “alarmed” by the reports of shuttering Energy Star. She described the initiative as “most successful public-private partnership we’ve ever had,” with more than 160,000 companies and organizations partaking in the program.
“To pull the rug out from under it is just beyond short-sighted. Energy Star is giving American consumers literally billions of dollars in savings on energy bills while significantly cutting pollution,” she said. “It’s sparking innovation in electronics, appliances, and building construction. It is an incredible success story that should be celebrated, not cast aside.”
Lowell Ungar, the senior policy advisor at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, told IBT that Energy Star is a program that works. "Bottom line: it helps consumers save money," he said, noting it is estimated consumers who bought Energy Star products and participated in their programs saved $34 billion in 2015.
"It is a remarkably successful brand recognized by almost 90% of Americans. And it helps businesses market better products. We don’t see why anyone would want to take that away from Americans," he said.
Since its launch in 1992, Energy Star has helped set voluntary energy efficiency standards for everything from computers to refrigerators to buildings. The program covers nearly 60 different product classes in total.
There is no requirement for companies to clear the bar set by the program, but products that do meet the standards are branded with the Energy Star logo.
That label has become quite recognizable for consumers. According to a 2015 survey conducted by the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, brand recognition for Energy Star was about 90 percent, and more than 45 percent of the consumers said they knowingly purchased an Energy Star product.
The program has also helped to continuously raise the standards for energy consumption. As more and more companies meet the specifications set by Energy Star, the organization raises the bar to encourage further improvement and innovation. Energy Star has already reached version 6.0 of its standards for televisions and 6.1 for computers.
It is not clear if the standards upheld by the program would be as significant under non-governmental leadership. Putting the standard setting process in the hands of the companies that have to meet the standards may lead to lowered requirements.
It may also lead to the removal of third-party testing that Energy Star puts products through, opting instead for self-policing from companies.
In one case of industry regulation, manufacturers of set-top boxes developed voluntary agreements for energy efficiency requirements. The self-imposed regulations were lower than the Energy Star standard, but required wider adoption.
Energy Star reports it has saved consumers an estimated $430 billion on utility bills since its inception, and has helped prevent 2.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. The program has an estimated budget of about $50 million per year.