SAN JOSE, Calif. The U.S. Department of Energy plans to start conducting its own tests soon to determine whether products are in compliance with the Energy Star program. The move is the latest step in a broad initiative under the Obama Administration to crack down on an electronics industry that has been lax in adhering to the requirements of the energy efficiency program.
About 60 categories of products ranging from refrigerators to computer servers are currently covered under the Energy Star program. The program sets limits to energy use and provides a brand logo complaint products can wear.
The DoE announced in October it created an enforcement team for the Energy Star program. "Energy efficiency and the Energy Star program are high priorities under this administration because it saves money and helps reduce climate change," said a Department of Energy spokeswoman.
The DoE is contracting with a number of small independent labs that will conduct Energy Star compliance testing on the administration's behalf. DoE labs will oversee the effort which will be announced "in the next few weeks or months," the spokeswoman said.
The move replaces what has been an apparently ineffective honor system.
The DoE gave electronics companies a 30-day warning it would start citing manufacturers who did not submit Energy Star compliance reports. By January 8 when the deadline hit, the DoE received 600,000 compliance reports.
"We had a lot of data, but we were missing a lot," the DoE spokeswoman said. "We are actively going through that new material now, and will be taking steps against any manufacturers not meeting the requirements," she added.
The DoE is already cracking down on a handful of OEMs whose Energy Star products are not in compliance. Starting Wednesday (Jan. 20) the DoE will require LG Electronics remove Energy Star labels from 40,000 of it refrigerators, following a decision on Jan. 18 by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
The DoE said LG tested the refrigerators with their ice makers turned off. The Energy Star procedure for the refrigerators is to test them with the ice makers on, but not in operation. LG had obtained a temporary stay from the DoE on its testing procedure and the two had battled in court over terms of that agreement.
The DoE has pending actions with at least two other white goods makers. It plans to have independent tests conducted on air conditioners from Aerosys, and the DOE won a consent decree recently against freezers from China OEM Haier.
"There will be additional announcements [of other actions] soon," the spokeswoman said.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched the Energy Star program in the early 1990's. However, the DoE and EPA recently forged an agreement splitting up duties to manage the program that also put the DoE in charge of a whole-building effort.
Consumer Reports has been one of the DoE's allies in stepping up enforcement efforts. "They have often been the ones to flag some appliances are consuming too much energy," the spokeswoman said.