Regulation Database – Department of Energy

The Department of Energy (DOE), through the Buildings Technologies Office, sets minimum energy efficiency standards for approximately 60 categories of appliances and equipment used in homes, businesses, and other applications, as required by existing law.

Deregulatory Action: On January 20, 2017, the Trump Administration issued a Presidential Memorandum entitled “Regulatory Freeze Pending Review” which directs all agencies to postpone the publication of new and pending regulations in order to give the new administration time to review those regulations. More info >>

The memorandum indefinitely postpones the publication of four energy efficiency standards finalized by the Department of Energy (DOE) in December 2016 as part of the Energy Conservation Program (these standards have not yet been published in the Federal Register and thus had to be withdrawn for review). These include:

Shortly after the memorandum was issued, DOE also postponed the effective date of certain energy efficiency standards that had already been published in the Federal Register until March 21, 2017:

On March 20, 2017, DOE further postponed the effective date of test procedures for walk-in coolers and freezerscentral air conditioners and heat pumps, and compressors, and conservation standards for ceiling fans. On May 24, 2017, DOE published a notice announcing that the standards for ceiling fans would go into effect on September 30, 2017.

Litigation: On April 3, 2017, a coalition of states filed a lawsuit challenging the administration’s decision to delay the energy efficiency standards for ceiling fans. The same coalition also submitted a 60-day notice to DOE regarding to the failure to promulgate publish final standards for compressors, walk-in coolers and freezers, power supply equipment, portable air conditioners, and commercial boilers. On February 15, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held that DOE’s failure to publish the four energy efficiency standards violated its duties under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The court therefore granted the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and ordered DOE to publish the standards.

Deregulatory Action: On May 1, 2019, DOE issued a proposal that would make it easier for manufacturers of appliances subject to federal energy efficiency requirements to acquire a temporary exemption from federal test procedure requirements. The rule was finalized on December 11, 2020. Under the final rule, a waiver request is deemed granted if DOE does not respond within 45 days.

Litigation: On January 19, 2021, a coalition of states and cities challenged the waiver rule in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Washing Machines

Deregulatory Action: On December 16, 2020, the Department of Energy (DOE) established separate product classes for certain washing machines under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. The new classes include top-loading residential clothes washers and consumer clothes dryers that offer cycle times for a normal cycle of less than 30 minutes, and front-loading residential clothes washers that offer cycle times for a normal cycle of less than 45 minutes. Energy efficiency advocates expressed concern that the new classifications would allow washers and dryers with shorter cycles to avoid more stringent standards.

Litigation: On January 19, 2021, a coalition of states and cities challenged the rule in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Reregulatory Action: On August 3, 2021, DOE proposed revoking the December 2020 rule.

Dish Washers

Deregulatory Action: On October 30, 2020, the Department of Energy (DOE) established a new product class for standard residential dishwashers with a cycle time for the normal cycle of one hour or less from washing through drying under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act. Energy efficiency advocates expressed concern that the new classification would allow dishwashers with shorter cycles to avoid more stringent standards.

Litigation: On December 29, 2020, coalition of states challenged the new rule in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. A coalition of environmental groups brought a parallel lawsuit on the same day.

Reregulatory Action: On August 3, 2021, DOE proposed revoking the October 2020 rule.

Furnaces

Deregulatory Action: On January 14, 2021, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a final rule that could block future administrations from making gas-fired water heaters, furnaces, and boilers more efficient. Many gas-fired water heaters, furnaces, and boilers currently allow a significant amount of heat to be wasted through venting, but some models use condensing technology to capture heat and prevent waste. In 2018 a number of industry groups petitioned DOE to define condensing and non-condensing equipment as separate categories with separate efficiency standards. The final rule defines non-condensing technology, which requires venting, as a performance-related "feature" under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act that cannot be eliminated through adoption of an energy conservation standard. By creating two separate classes -- one for models with condensing capabilities and one for models without such capabilities -- DOE limits future administrations' authority to require condensing equipment for all gas-fired water heaters, furnaces and boilers.

Litigation: On March 17, 2021, a coalition of states challenged the rule in the Second Circuit.

 

Process Rule

Deregulatory Action: On January 16, 2020, the Department of Energy (DOE) finalized amendments to its "process rule" governing the process of developing energy conservation standards for appliances such as dishwashers and refrigerators. The new rule establishes a threshold for the amount of energy conservation required to trigger the process of updating standards that is likely to result in fewer updates in the future. The revisions also require DOE to codify private sector consensus standards for test procedures. On August 18, 2020, the Department of Energy (DOE) finalized amendments to its process rule. The revised rule requires DOE to conduct a comparative analysis of the relative benefits and burdens of potential energy conservation standard levels in determining whether a specific energy conservation standard level is economically justified.

Litigation: On April 14, 2020, a coalition of states and cities challenged the new rule in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. California v. Brouillette (9th Cir. 20-71068). A coalition of environmental groups brought a parallel action the same day. NRDC v. Brouillette (9th Cir. 20-71071).

Reregulatory Action: On April 1, 2021, the Department of Energy (DOE) published a notice of proposed rulemaking and request for comment that proposed undoing revisions that the previous administration had made to the process rule.

The DOE Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) updates energy efficiency standards for federal buildings, as required under the Energy Conservation & Production Act (ECPA). (42 USC 6834 & 6835):

Commercial: Current Standard is the ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1-2013 (effective Jan. 5, 2016). The full requirements for federal commercial buildings are contained in 10 CFR 433. On February 27, 2018, DOE issued an Order finalizing the Department’s determination that 2016 edition of ANSI / ASHRAE / IES Standard 90.1 improves overall efficiency in buildings subject to the code compared to the 2013 edition of standard 90.1.

Residential: Current Standard is the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) (effective Aug.10, 2012). The full requirements for federal residential buildings are included in 10 CFR 435. On January 10, 2017, DOE published a final rule to update the energy efficiency standards for federal low-rise buildings. However, due to the deregulatory action noted below, this rule has not yet taken effect.

Deregulatory Action: On February 6, 2017, DOE postponed the effective date of energy efficiency standards that had already been published in the Federal Register until March 21, 2017. One of the postponed rules was the Energy Efficiency Standards for the Design and Construction of New Federal Low-Rise Residential Buildings’ Baseline Standards Update, 82 Fed. Reg. 2857 (Jan. 10, 2017). On March 20, 2017, DOE announced that the effective date of the energy efficiency standards would be further postponed to allow additional time for review. The standards for new federal low-rise residential buildings were postponed until September 30, 2017.

Regulatory Action: On May 17, 2021, the Biden administration announced a multi-pronged effort to advance efficiency and electrification in federal government buildings. The Council on Environmental Quality is launching an interagency federal sustainability effort with the General Services Administration, Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency to develop the first-ever building performance standards for the federal government. The administration also announced new ENERGY STAR standards to advance heat pump technology and fast chargers for electric vehicles.

In January 2017 the DOE finalized regulations expanding the types of light bulbs subject to energy efficiency standards under the Environmental Policy and Conservation Act by redefining "general service lamp" and strengthened standards to phase out less-efficient incandescent light bulbs.  These regulations were scheduled to come into effect in January 2020.

Deregulatory Action: on September 5, 2019, DOE repealed the rule extending the energy efficiency standards to new classes of light bulbs. On December 23, 2019, DOE repealed the rule strengthening the energy efficiency standards for general service lamps.

Litigation: On February 25, 2020, a coalition of states and cities challenged the decision not to strengthen standards. New York v. DOE (2d Cir. 20-743). A coalition of environmental groups brought a parallel action the same day. NRDC v. DOE (2d Cir. 20-699).

Reregulatory Action: On May 20, 2021, DOE proposed rescinding the rule to block the more stringent standards, and moving ahead with the stronger regulations. On August 10, 2021, DOE proposed reinstating the rescinded definitional rule to expand the types of light bulbs that would be covered by the more stringent standards.

NEPA Regulations

Deregulatory action: On December 4, 2020, the Department of Energy (DOE) revised its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations to categorically exclude "[a]pprovals or disapprovals of new authorizations or amendments of existing authorizations to export natural gas . . . and any associated transportation of natural gas by marine vessel" from the environmental assessment requirement. Under the Natural Gas Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has the authority to approve the construction and operation of natural gas pipelines and export facilities, but only DOE can approve natural gas exports. By categorically excluding natural gas exports from NEPA review, the revision could limit the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the overall natural gas export process.

Export Authorizations

Deregulatory action: On July 25, 2018, Department of Energy (DOE) issued a final rule revising its regulations to specify that DOE will issue an export authorization upon receipt of a complete application to export natural gas to countries with which the U.S. has not entered into a free trade agreement (FTA) with which trade is not prohibited by U.S. law or policy (non-FTA countries) provided that the application satisfies two criteria:

  1. The application proposes to export natural gas in a volume up to and including 51.75 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per year (Bcf/yr) (equivalent to 0.14 Bcf per day (Bcf/d)).
  2. DOE’s approval of the application does not require an environmental impact statement (EIS) or an environmental assessment (EA) under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).

DOE has concluded that applications that satisfy these criteria are requesting authorization for ‘‘small-scale natural gas exports,’’ and DOE deems such exports to be consistent with the public interest under the Natural Gas Act (NGA).

Environmental Justice Strategy

This 2016 DOE Environmental Justice Strategy provides a road map for the Department’s environmental justice goals and objectives and highlights major priorities for the next few years. One of the four key goals articulated in the plan is to minimize climate change impacts on vulnerable populations. This goal is broken down into four objectives: (1) Implement Department of Energy’s responsibilities under the President’s Climate Action Plan to address the needs of vulnerable populations. (2) Minimize the impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations by conducting discovery‐focused research with Moand other research organizations to increase our understanding of matter, materials, and their properties. (3) Reduce the Department’s greenhouse gas emissions while adapting DOE’s programs and operations for enhanced climate change resiliency. (4) Ensure continued engagement of local communities and stakeholders in the   beneficial reuse process

Reversing Deregulation

On February 19, 2021, the Department of Energy (DOE) sent the Office of Management and Budget a memorandum with a list of rules under review pursuant to President Biden's Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis. The executive order directs agencies to consider suspending, revising, or rescinding certain rules issued by the previous administration.

Solar Futures Study

On September 8, 2021, the Department of Energy released its Solar Futures Study, which explores the role of solar energy in transitioning to a carbon-free electric grid in accordance with President Biden's decarbonization goals. The study was produced by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Among other key findings, DOE concluded that solar energy could account for as much as 42% of the nation’s electricity supply by 2035 and 45% by 2050. The study is broken into eight chapters: Introduction and Summary of Results; Solar Futures Scenarios; Reliably Integrating More than a Terawatt of Solar onto the Grid; Understanding the Role of Solar Through the Lens of Equity; Synergies Between Solar and Storage; Technology Advances for Increased Solar Deployment; the Role of Solar by End-Use Sector; and Key Considerations for the Solar Supply Chain, Environment, Circular Economy, and Workforce.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge

On September 9, 2021, the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, and Department of Agriculture released a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formally launching an inter-agency Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge. The purpose of the Grand Challenge is “to reduce the cost, enhance the sustainability, and expand the production and use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) that achieves a minimum of 50% reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) compared to conventional fuel to meet a goal of supplying sufficient SAF to meet 100% of aviation fuel demand by 2050.” The MOU also intends to support a just transition of the energy industry through job creation. Among the inter-agency actions listed in the MOU, the signing agencies agreed to establish a joint, executive-level team to develop a framework for implementing the MOU. This Grand Challenge is one part of the Biden Administration’s goal of increasing the sustainability of American aviation.

Local Energy Action Program (Communities LEAP)

On September 15, 2021, the Department of Energy launched its Local Energy Action Program (Communities LEAP). The Communities LEAP initiative is designed to help environmental justice communities and communities with historical ties to fossil fuel industries develop locally-driven energy plans to reduce local air pollution, increase energy resilience, lower utility costs and energy burdens, and create good-paying jobs.

Proposed Rule Requiring Reductions in Federal Building Consumption of Fossil Fuel-Generated Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) published in the October 15, 2010 Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking to implement provisions of the Energy Conservation and Production Act (ECPA), as amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), that require the DOE to establish revised performance standards for the construction of all new federal buildings, including commercial buildings, multi-family high-rise residential buildings, and low-rise residential buildings and federal buildings undergoing major renovations.  This proposed rule would amend certain portions of 10 CFR parts 433 and 435, the regulations governing energy efficiency in federal buildings. The proposed rule establishes a methodology for compliance including the calculation of the maximum allowable fossil fuel-generated energy consumption based on building type and how fossil fuel consumption resulting from electricity usage should be considered.

In October 2014, DOE issued a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking to respond to comments and request new comments on certain matters.


Proposed Rule Requiring Federal Agencies to Reduce Petroleum Consumption

On March 12, 2012 the Department of Energy issued a proposed rule requiring Federal agencies to reduce the quantity of petroleum used by their vehicle fleets by 20 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2015 and increase their use of alternative fuels by 10 percent over 2005 levels by 2015.  The rule implements requirements in Section 142 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.  The rule would apply to all Federal agencies, including major energy consumers such as the Department of Defense and the U.S. Postal Service.


DOE Shale Gas Production Subcommittee: Final Recommendations on Regulating Shale Gas Development

On November 18, 2011 the Shale Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board released a final report identifying twenty implementation measures that can be taken to reduce the environmental impact and to help assure the safety of shale gas production. Among other measures, the report recommends that EPA expand proposed emission standards for oil and gas sector to include regulation of methane emissions from existing shale gas production facilities, and take action to address water quality concerns relating to shale gas production before completing its planned three-year study of shale gas wastewater discharges.  The report also urged EPA, DOE, and the Department of Interior to coordinate support for research and development efforts on shale gas.


Proposed Rule Requiring Federal Agencies to Reduce Petroleum Consumption

On March 12, 2012 the Department of Energy issued a proposed rule requiring Federal agencies to reduce the quantity of petroleum used by their vehicle fleets by 20 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2015 and increase their use of alternative fuels by 10 percent over 2005 levels by 2015.  The rule implements requirements in Section 142 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.  The rule would apply to all Federal agencies, including major energy consumers such as the Department of Defense and the U.S. Postal Service.