Administration unveils 'historic' efficiency rules for air conditioners

Greg Nash

The Department of Energy announced a new energy efficiency standard for commercial air conditioners and furnaces on Thursday, hailing the announcement as one of the largest carbon-reduction measures the agency has ever pushed. 

The new rules, the Energy Department said, will “save more energy than any other standard issued by the department to date.” Over the course of the standard, the administration said, businesses will save $167 billion on utility bills and reduce carbon pollution by 885 million metric tons. 

ADVERTISEMENT
The new standards will take effect in 2018, requiring manufacturers build products that are 13 percent more energy efficient than they are today. Five years later, the standard will tighten by another 15 percent. 

Officials developed the rules after consulting with air conditioning industry organizations and manufacturers, the department said. It's just the latest efficiency rule released by the department, which has already finalized standards for more than 40 consumer and commercial products. 

Still, the scope of Thursday's announcement is unprecedented: Taken together, the 40 previous regulations will cut emissions by 2 billion metric tons through 2030. This rule is worth 885 million metric tons on its own over the next 30 years. 

Energy Secretary Ernest MonizErnest MonizEnergy Dept. helps with Biden’s cancer project Bay Area energy meeting is where climate protection gets real The Trail 2016: Donald and the Supremes MORE, fresh off a trip to Paris for a global climate change summit, said the rule will contribute to American commitments under a new international climate agreement.

“Just days after the Paris agreement to cut global emissions and create a new era of affordable energy, today’s announcement marks the largest energy-saving standard in history and demonstrates that America is leading the effort to reduce energy costs and cut carbon emissions,” he said. 

The Natural Resources Defense Council called the rule a “promising sign” for the fight against climate change. 

“These groundbreaking standards will yield the greatest single amount of energy savings of any rule ever issued by the Department of Energy,” Rhea Suh, the group’s president, said. 

“These are very, very promising days in the global fight to slow, stop and reverse climate change, the central environmental challenge of our time.”

The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute said it was "still reviewing the final rule" on Thursday, but was optimistic about the deal. 

This is an agreement that will ultimately save the nation considerable energy and we are proud of the role our member companies played in its development," Francis Dietz, the group's vice president of public affairs, said.

"It is a good example in a sometimes cynical city that when disparate parties come together in good faith, good things can happen.”
 
—This post was updated at 4:58 p.m.