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GAO: Missed Deadlines for Efficiency Standards Will Cost $28 Billion

The Department of Energy has missed all 34 congressional deadlines for setting energy efficiency standards for the 20 product categories with statutory deadlines that have passed, according to a report (PDF) from the U.S. Governemnt Accountability Office. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimates that delays in setting standards for the four consumer product categories that consume the most energy – refrigerators and freezers, central air conditioners and heat pumps, water heaters, and clothes washers – will cost at least $28 billion in forgone energy savings by 2030.

DOE’s delays ranged from less than a year to 15 years. Rulemakings have been completed for only refrigerators, refrigerator-freezers, and freezers; small furnaces; and clothes washers. DOE has yet to finish 17 categories of such consumer products as kitchen ranges and ovens, dishwashers, and water heaters, and industrial equipment such as distribution transformers.

The DOE attributes delays to several causes, including an overly ambitious statutory rulemaking schedule and a lengthy internal review process. In interviews, however, DOE officials could not agree on the causes of delays. The report says that DOE lacks the program management data needed to identify bottlenecks in the rulemaking process.

There is a plan to bring the standards up to date by 2011, but it’s unclear whether this plan will effectively clear DOE’s backlog because the department does not have the necessary program management data to be certain the plan addresses the root causes, according to the report. One problem is that the plan calls for a sixfold increase in workload with only a small increase in resources.

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