Energy efficiency standards for appliances should include upstream costs

May 27, 2009

The U.S. Department of Energy should consider gradually changing its system of setting appliance energy-efficiency standards to a full-fuel-cycle measurement, which takes into account both the energy used to operate an appliance, as well as upstream energy costs -- energy consumed in producing and distributing fuels from coal, oil, and natural gas, and energy lost in generating and delivering electric power. This change would offer consumers more complete information on household energy consumption and its environmental impacts, says a new congressionally mandated report from the National Research Council.

Currently, DOE sets appliance efficiency standards using primarily "site" (or point-of-use) measurements, which reflect only the energy consumed to operate the appliance. Site measurements allow consumers to compare energy efficiency among appliances, but offer no information about other energy costs involved. For example, site measurements may indicate that, in the home, an electric water heater operates with 90 percent efficiency while a natural gas water heater operates with 65 percent efficiency. Full-fuel-cycle measurements would also take into account the upstream that are involved in providing either electricity or natural gas. Energy losses in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity can be as high as 70 percent to 75 percent, whereas losses incurred in the distribution of natural gas are only about 10 percent. Therefore, using full-fuel-cycle measurements, the water heater may be considered the more energy-efficient appliance.

According to the report, site measurements are appropriate when setting standards for appliances in the same class -- based on fuel type, technology, and capacity -- that use only one type of fuel. When considering appliances that use multiple fuel types (e.g., a heating system with a gas furnace and an electric fan) or comparing appliances that perform the same function (e.g., space cooling or water heating) but use different types of fuel, the full-fuel-cycle measurement would provide a more complete picture of .

Debate over this issue has been long-standing and was seen in the committee that wrote the report. The majority of the committee endorsed a gradual switch to full-fuel-cycle measurements as a way to provide more information to consumers and explicitly show the impact of energy use on the environment. However, two committee members dissented and instead felt that DOE should continue to use primarily site measures when setting energy-efficiency standards. According to these dissenting opinions, transitioning to a full-fuel-cycle measurement would not necessarily help consumers reduce their energy consumption -- the goal of the appliance efficiency program -- and would inevitably favor one fuel, which is a matter of national policy, not the appliance efficiency program.

Source: National Academy of Sciences (news : web)

Explore further: After Fukushima, Japan gets green boom—and glut

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New standards for Energy Star fridges

Aug 04, 2007

The U.S. Department of Energy is increasing the energy efficiency criteria required for refrigerators carrying the Energy Star label.

Why a hydrogen economy doesn't make sense

Dec 11, 2006

In a recent study, fuel cell expert Ulf Bossel explains that a hydrogen economy is a wasteful economy. The large amount of energy required to isolate hydrogen from natural compounds (water, natural gas, biomass), ...

Keeping old appliances leaves owners out in the cold

Sep 22, 2005

Holding on to an old refrigerator until it dies might seem economical, but most likely it costs consumers more money than it saves because older refrigerators can consume as much as twice the energy of newer ...

Recommended for you

European grid prepares for massive integration of renewables

19 hours ago

Today, the ancient city of Rome welcomed an important new initiative for the large-scale integration of grids and of renewables sources into Europe's energy mix, with nearly 40 leading organisations from research, industry, ...

Preparing for a zero-emission urban bus system

Oct 30, 2014

In order to create a competitive and sustainable transport system, the EU must look to alternative fuels to replace or complement petrol and diesel. Not only will this reduce transport emissions but it will ...

Exploring the value of 'Energy Star' homes

Oct 30, 2014

The numbers in neat columns tell—column by column, page by page—a story spread out across Carmen Carrión-Flores' desk at Binghamton University. It's a great story, she says; she just doesn't know how ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.