Following a spate of recent coverage questioning the Energy Star label certification process, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy have announced immediate changes to the certification process.
That's the good news. The bad news is that now product manufacturers will have to pay for label tests and benchmarking reviews "from an approved, accredited lab" that will now be required by the EPA before any product gets an Energy Star label. In short, there will no longer be an automated approval progress.
There actually already is a testing requirement for products in the windows, doors, skylights and compact fluorescent lighting categories. The new rule will extend it to all of the roughly 60 product categories that are covered under the Energy Star program.
An internal memo, "Building a Stronger Energy Star Program," outlines the rationale for the "180-degree shift in the way manufacturers apply for, earn, and keep the Energy Star label on products sold to the American consumer." In the memo, the EPA and DoE say that manufacturers are being put on notice that independent testing will be required by no later than the end of 2010. There will also be a verification testing process put in place to ensure continued compliance.
While it is great that these actions are being taken for the sake of the label's credibility, there is bound to be some fallout as some manufacturers resist the cost of the tests. I only hope that this action doesn't stifle innovation by smaller players that truly are pushing the envelope -- in a good way -- when it comes to energy efficiency.