DOE Appliance Standards Program

November 8, 2017

This is the second of a multi-post blog series by the BERC-Action community on President Trump’s proposed budget. The first piece was on the Importance of the EPA. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent the opinions of the entire BERC organization. 

Energy efficiency standards for appliances are the reason why your household energy use has decreased over time rather than increase, despite a growing number of electronic devices in homes across the country [1]. The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Appliance and Equipment Standards Program covers more than 60 products, representing about 90% of home energy use, 60% of commercial building energy use, and 30% of industrial energy use. The Program establishes test procedures for measuring the energy efficiency, establishes mandatory standard levels for energy efficiency, and enforces the standard to ensure that manufacturers are complying. As a result of DOE’s standards, a typical U.S. household today saves about $321 per year off their energy bills. As consumers replace their appliances with newer models, they can expect to save over $529 annually by 2030 [2].

The Department of Energy’s mission is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions [3]. Defunding DOE would waste untold amounts of energy, hamper innovation, and kill jobs.  Trump’s budget calls for an overall cut of 5.7%, down to $28 billion. Much of the reductions would be from clean energy and efficiency programs, whereas spending for nuclear weapons programs would be increased. Aside from the increase to the nuclear weapon program, Trump’s budget would decrease  DOE’s budget by about 16% of [2016 levels].

What, specifically, is in the proposed 2018 Trump DOE budget

  • 5.7% cut (to $28.0 billion) to overall DOE budget
  • 70% cut to the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) office [4]
  • 74% cut to EERE’s solar, wind, water and geothermal programs [4]
  • 73% cut to the vehicle technologies program [4]
  • 55% cut to the Appliance Standards Program [5]
  • $1.4 billion increase to National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous agency responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science [6]

Why you should be opposed to these proposed cuts to DOE

  1. Appliance standards promote the health and safety of individuals and combat climate change

Standards implemented by the Appliance Standards Program since 1987 have avoided 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which is roughly equivalent to the annual emissions from 550 million automobiles [7,8].The impacts of carbon dioxide emissions on decreased agricultural production, harm to human health, and other impacts are monetized with the social cost of carbon, which is currently estimated to be about $220 per ton of carbon [9]. Applying this to the tons of CO2 that the program has already achieved, the monetized savings go through the roof.  Over the last few decades, increases in pollutants in the air due to human activity have led to an increase in the rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and even deaths. Allowing more emissions will only exacerbate this already known issue [10].

  1. Appliance standards are not a political issue

The attack on the Appliance Standards Program is unprecedented. Appliance Standards have historically received bipartisan support. National equipment standards were started in 1987 by President Reagan and the program has steadily grown since. In addition to energy and cost savings, the appliance standards program has also helped force product innovation, which has greatly benefited consumers. The efficiency standards have pushed manufacturers to develop high-efficiency equipment for cost-competitive prices.

The appliance standards process is typically a collaboration between DOE, industry/manufacturers, and efficiency advocates. While DOE drives the process, stakeholders provide valuable input and feedback which are vital to the process. Each party has their own focus, but in the end all three sides are generally able to come to consensus that saves consumers money and reduces harmful pollution.

  1. Appliance standards save consumers billions on their electricity and heating bills

The Appliance Standards Program saved consumers $60 billion on their utility bills in 2014 [11]. Energy savings from refrigerator, clothes washer & clothes dryer, dishwasher, central air conditioner, and toilets efficiency standards the average household saved $360 (~40%) in utility bills in 2012 compared to just twenty years before that [12]. Standards have also helped to drive down the cost of energy-efficient products, leading to savings while purchasing equipment as well. In addition to the energy and cost savings, such high quality products have also been seen to improve comfort (provide better thermal comfort, reduct noise, etc) and even have additional features.

The energy efficiency of a number of household appliances has increased over the years since, with energy improvements as [2]:

  • New clothes washers use 70% less energy.
  • New dishwashers use more than 40% less energy.
  • New air conditioners use about 50% less energy.
  • New furnaces use about 10% less energy.
  1. Appliance standards keep America competitive and create jobs

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that 340,000 jobs could be attributed to existing appliance standards in 2010. By 2030, that number is expected to reach 380,000 jobs in the United States [13].

Benefits to the nation [2]:

  • Saves billions of dollars on energy costs to put back into the economy
  • Reduces energy waste by increasing energy efficiency
  • Creates and protects manufacturing jobs in the U.S.
  • Spurs innovation and competition in the marketplace

Where does the budget proposal stand as of today?

As of today, the proposed 2018 Trump budget has not yet been implemented. The House Appropriations Committee largely rejected Trump’s proposed cuts to deep science, but still had significant cuts to renewable energy programs (46%), including eliminating Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) [14]. However, the Senate committee has been more supportive of science, and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee voted to keep ARPA-E (even giving it an 8% increase), and cuts EERE by 7%. Now the House and Senate have to work together to reconcile their budgets and get something to Trump to sign.

Even the best-case scenario of the Senate bill would cause significant job losses and program loses.

What can you do?

We need to save the Appliance Standards Program and all of the other great energy innovations programs going on at DOE. For now, there are two things you can do: 1) share this information to help educate your fellow citizens on what is at stake, and 2) stay tuned for a coordinated effort to contact specific members of Congress to make your voice heard.


  1.‹ Consumption Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS)-f5