State energy savings bill would discourage progress

computers, cameras and cell phones
A proposal before the state Legislature would indiscriminately throw all manner of electronics together in an effort to turn voluntary federal ENERGY STAR efficiency standards into a requirement under state law. Photo: arkansasconsumer.org

Makers and sellers of consumer electronics are voicing their opposition to a bill before the state Legislature that aims to establish new minimum energy efficiency standards for a long list of appliances.

Simply put, House bill 2327 is too broad. The proposal lumps entirely different electronic products together that have little in common. Is a smartphone or computer anything like a water cooler, toilet or steam cooker, for example?

And yet, this bill indiscriminately throws these items together in an effort to  force what is now voluntary federal ENERGY STAR efficiency standards to be a requirement under state law for all kinds of tech products, from cutting-edge hand-held devices to more common and low-tech home appliances.

This overly broad proposal would stifle innovation and competition among manufacturers of high-end consumer electronics such as computers, TVs and phones who have already made great strides in saving energy under the voluntary federal ENERGY STAR program.

Between 2010 and 2017, the number of tech devices in U.S. households grew by 21 percent – but these devices now use 25 percent less energy than they did in 2010. LCD TVs made in 2015 use 76 percent less energy than those made in 2003. But HB 2327 ignores these market realities and distinctions by prescribing a one-size-fits-all solution to a vast array of products and industries that are very different in feature, function and energy use.

Since it began in 1992, ENERGY STAR has helped Americans save $430 billion on energy spending and lowered greenhouse gas emissions by 2.8 billion tons. With the rapidly-changing consumer electronics industry, mandating static, backward-looking energy limits effectively prevents the consumer tech industry from innovating and finding ways to streamline products, save energy and meet climate goals.

Old school regulatory limits that restrict energy use don’t work well in this shifting, fast-paced world and often wind up blocking competition and innovation that could – and has – achieved greater levels of efficiency. Voluntary programs allow the tech industry to partner with government and consider consumer preferences while at the same time allowing innovators the flexibility to develop their own energy conservation approaches.

This bill appears to be an effort to “fix” an energy conservation program that is not broken. State legislators would do well to carefully consider the many disadvantages of this proposal before voting for a measure that will undermine progress toward energy efficiency and a cleaner, healthier environment.

Mark Johnson is the Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the Washington Retail Association.

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