Nearly half-way through Donald Trump’s term in the White House, his administration is beginning to focus its relentless penchant for energy deregulation on energy efficiency.
Until now, “amid constant reports of regulatory rollbacks, there’s been surprisingly little damage to energy efficiency,” write Lowell Ungar, senior policy advisor at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). “But now the administrative winds are starting to blow, rulemakings are under way—with a couple of open comment periods—and we are working hard to hold onto the energy savings we have been helping to build.”
Ungar points to “remarkable successes” on energy efficiency under President Barack Obama. “Appliance, vehicle, and power plant standards alone should save over 10 quadrillion Btu per year by 2030 (equivalent to about half of U.S. home energy use), and should cumulatively save consumers over US$2.5 trillion in energy bills by 2040,” he writes.
But now, vehicle efficiency standards are “facing a gale”, Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan is “blowing in the wind”, appliance efficiency standards have been frozen, manufactured housing standards were never finalized, federal support for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing was withdrawn, and the administration may be about to roll back 2020 light bulb standards introduced as “one of the biggest-saving rules ever”.
The news isn’t all bad. Ungar says the U.S. Congress appears poised to renew funding for the Energy Star energy efficiency rating system, and actually increased its investment in energy efficiency programs in 2018. But getting at the funds is becoming increasingly difficult.
“Although the money is there, getting it out the door has been an increasing problem, made even worse because there still is not a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy” at the U.S. Department of Energy.
With a near-term forecast for energy efficiency programs that looks distinctly cloudy, “we are working to limit the damage as much as we can,” Ungar concludes. “And as unpredictable as the course of a storm may be, we know that the one certainty about the weather is that it will eventually change.”