NEMA-Supported Federal Energy Legislation Passes House and Awaits Senate Discussion

April 18, 2003
With the strong backing of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Rosslyn, Va., the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed

With the strong backing of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Rosslyn, Va., the U.S. House of Representatives last week passed a comprehensive energy bill by a vote of 247-175. The bill now awaits Senate action.

The Energy Policy Act of 2003 (H.R. 6) contains many NEMA-backed electricity provisions missing from the House bill in the last Congress. While the bill proposes regulation that would slash energy costs on a broad range of fronts in the public and private sectors, it has a particularly strong focus on cutting energy usage in federal buildings. The bill would force federal buildings to meet tough energy-efficiency standards and require the federal government to purchase energy-efficient motors and other electrical products.

Other key areas of interest for NEMA are regulations that would supercede any state regulations enacted after any federal energy legislation is signed into law, and a requirement regarding the installation of metering equipment that can collect data on time-of-day usage trends so buildings owners can monitor and curtail their energy usage during the times of day when rates are higher because it's more expensive for utilities to produce electricity.

NEMA's lobbying efforts for the House bill were focused on areas including:

  • Increased goals for federal energy efficiency including federal building requirements that beat ASHRAE 90.1-1999 standards.

  • Requirements for federal government to purchase energy-efficient products, including mandatory purchases of NEMA Premium motors and Energy Star or Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) designated products.

  • Efficiency standards for exit signs, torchiere fixtures, LED traffic signals and low-voltage, dry-type transformers.

  • A Next Generation Lighting Initiative that would spark development of solid-state lighting technologies using white light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

H.R. 6 authorizes the Secretary of Energy to carry out a program known as the Next Generation Lighting Initiative (NGLI) to support research, development, demonstration and commercial application activities related to advanced solid-state lighting technologies based upon white LEDs. Lighting industry experts expect white LEDs to one day replace conventional indoor lighting sources such as fluorescent and incandescent lamps in many applications.

The bill sets out several performance targets to be reached by 2013 for both inorganic and organic LED sources, said Kyle Pitsor, NEMA's industry director, industry operations. The bill calls for a public-private partnership to reach these performance objectives, and authorizes federal R&D dollars over the 10-year period. NEMA and the Solid State Lighting Industry are working with the Congress and DOE to organize the industry partnership for this initiative, and are working with the Senate on its own NGLI provision that will be conferenced with the House-passed version.

NEMA also supports a requirement for states to consider a standard for real-time pricing and time-of-use meters as well as a requirement for electric suppliers to provide net metering for on-site generation. It also lobbied for tax incentives for advanced meters and tax deductions for efficient commercial buildings. According to NEMA, to be eligible for the tax deduction, meters would need to have features that would make them amenable to applications where demand could be reduced automatically or through manual means.

For example, the meters might measure electricity use on an hourly basis so time-of-use rates could provide an incentive to the electricity user to reduce use at high cost times of day. “If the utility customer had the meter or meters to see a price that reflected cost, then customers could choose for themselves what to do,” said Ed Gray, NEMA's director, energy policy, government affairs. For example, a residential customer might use the time delay function on a dishwasher if it made a difference in cost. Other ways to save energy costs might include cutting back on lighting in the afternoons when loads are high, and choosing summer schedules that could cut back on lighting and energy use.

Because of its concerns over the costs of duplicate legislation to its members, NEMA also wants to phase out state energy legislation enacted after the national energy bill, and included language regarding this issue in both the House Bill and in the Senate energy legislation.

In the draft Senate Committee bill, state-legislated energy-efficiency standards after the enactment of the federal energy bill would be preempted. For states that legislate standards before the national energy bill is enacted (so far only California), their state standards would be preempted when the federal standard becomes effective. Since regulations regarding exit signs, torchiere fixtures, LED traffic signals and low-voltage dry-type transformers in both the House and draft Senate Committee bills have the same effectiveness date for federal standards as in the numerous states considering state legislated standards, NEMA said the practical effect of the Senate language would be to make the state bills moot. The only outstanding exception would be those manufacturers that would need to comply with California standards until the federal standards become effective.