As part of the first day’s programming at the Consumer Electronics Show, the Tech Policy Summit featured a panel session on “ENERGY STAR and Consumer Electronics: What Does the Future Hold?”   This session covered how the recent changes to verification, testing and enforcement affect manufacturers, retailers and consumers.  As an EPA-recognized certification body, MET Laboratories was in attendance.

CES Energy Star Testing SessionThe panel session was moderated by Mike Feazel, executive editor of Consumer Electronics Daily and other publications.  Panelists included:

  • Steve Dulac, director of engineering for DIRECTV, Inc.
  • Katharine Kaplan, EPA ENERGY STAR team leader
  • Huey Long, senior VP of technology services at Sam’s Club
  • Alex Padilla, member of California State Senate
  • Chris Saunders, product energy programs manager at Lexmark International
  • Mark Sharp, group manager for the corporate environmental department of Panasonic Corporation of North America

Following is a paraphrasing of some of the panelists comments.

On the rapid ENERGY STAR testing and verification program implementation:

Kaplan: We had planned to implement testing and verification over a multi-year timeline, but we were pushed to do it quicker.  This truncated the stakeholder engagement process.  However, EPA responded to stakeholder comments by recognizing international standards (using ISO 17025), allowing for the use of in-house labs, recognizing the importance of keeping costs down (working with CBs to create competition), and recognizing accreditation bodies around the globe (representing 16 countries currently).

Sharp: From a manufacturer’s perspective, additional new burdens are largely put on manufacturers only.  Manufacturer input was considered but not heard at the level we’re used to.

Dulac: This is a one-size-fits-all solution.  EPA didn’t have time to differentiate.

On California’s outsized importance in energy efficiency discussions:

Sharp: We deal with California almost like we deal with the federal government, because it becomes de facto national law.  We make a big investment in stakeholder relations in California.

On the potential to charge a price premium for ENERGY STAR products:

Saunders: Features and functions are consumers’ first priority.  Second is energy efficiency.  We have to sell ENERGY STAR printers at the same cost as our other printers.

Sharp: We can’t charge more – it is something we eat.  It is a challenge for us to market. 

Dulac: You have to have it if you want to be seen as a leader in your space.

If there was one thing that manufacturers could change about the new ENERGY STAR requirements:

Saunders: More time.  We received the final requirements 6 weeks before the change.  Also, the top 25 rule.  This is a market changer.

Sharp: Top 25% is very difficult for manufacturers.  We are caught in the middle.  We want to sell as many products as possible. 

Kaplan: The idea of ENERGY STAR is to recognize the top performers in each category.  There has been a lot of criticism from media when they walk down the aisle at Best Buy and every TV is ENERGY STAR labeled.  ENERGY STAR was always meant to be an elite label.

Saunders: The entire certification decision is in the hands of the certification body.  They can accept the testing as valid or invalid.

Kaplan: We are interested in this working for our manufacturing partners.  Technical staff is available all day every day.  It is written into our partner agreement – tell us if there are problems or abuses, and we will take action. 

On a new best of the best label:

Kaplan: We are vetting a program called “most efficient.”  It will launch in the spring timeframe.  It will be the top 5%.  We are launching with four product categories: televisions, clothes washers, refrigerators, and the fourth I can’t remember.

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