2017-03-15 / News

Ratings program may end

Consumers who rely on Energy Star ratings to shop for household appliances that are cheaper to operate, won’t have that option if the preliminary budget being proposed by the Trump administration is approved by Congress.

According to Cli- matewire, the proposed budget would cut Energy Star and its related programs to just $5 million “for the closeout or transfer of all the climate protection voluntary partnership programs.”

Energy Star is a voluntary program for manufacturers and construction companies to have their products and buildings certified as energy-efficient.

“EPA should begin developing legislative options and associated groundwork for transferring ownership and implementation of Energy Star to a nongovernmental entity,” the draft reads, according to a source who has viewed the document. “EPA should also explore similar transfer opportunities for the remainany ing partnership programs as well,” Climatewire reported.

HOMES Inc. of Whitesburg used the Energy Star program to build energy efficient houses for lowincome residents. It built about 12 houses that are Energy Star certified, but has now switched to a different standard called a HERS Rating.

HOMES Executive Director Seth Long said the nonprofit housing agency made the switch after drainage standards and other guidelines that were unachievable in a mountainous area were added to the program. HERS looks strictly at energy efficiency and cost of utilities for residents.

Long said HOMES is still building to Energy Star standards on energy efficiency, but is just leaving out things unrelated to the utility costs and livability of the houses. Long said the good part about Energy Star is that it teaches builders about “building science,” which is not necessarily something carpenters know. Learning that science has taught HOMES employees how to build efficient homes.

The White House has said President Donald Trump wants to cut 25 percent from the Environmental Protection Agency’s $8.2 billion budget and spend that money on defense. The White House and the EPA are still working on the proposal, and Congress would have to approve the cuts.

Energy efficiency advocates and state regulators say Energy Star is one of the programs that it doesn’t make any sense to cut, because it saves people money while benefiting the environment, Climatewire reported.

Energy savings experts say a nongovernmental Energy Star program, perhaps one run by industry, would not be as trusted or effective.

“An internal industry label is not going to be as effective, is not going to be as reliable,” said Lowell Ungar, senior policy adviser at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

— By SAM ADAMS

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