U.S. ENERGY STAR program at risk

One of the most recent leaks from the Trump White House is that it is considering axing the immensely popular ENERGY STAR program. In Canada, we also have ENERGY STAR for industry, as well as its sister program, EnerGuide, which deals with homes, consumer products, and vehicles.

If this happens, not only would the decision be short-sighted, it would be an incredibly bone-headed move that takes no actual evidence into account.

I’ve dealt with both EnerGuide as a homeowner (energy audit), and ENERGY STAR in my professional capacity as an environmental writer and researcher. The audit helped me to pinpoint which upgrades I needed to take and when. The measures I took as a result of the audit made my 1950s-era house less drafty, more comfortable, and yes I am saving on energy costs. I know because I’m one of those nerds who tracks that kind of thing.

From the hundreds of interviews I’ve done with business owners and managers over the years about ENERGY STAR and related green building programs, to a person they report lower operating and maintenance costs, lower energy bills, longer lifespans for equipment and systems, and healthier, more comfortable indoor environments as a result.

I’ve been reading various comments on new sites from U.S. citizens about the potential decision. Most are in agreement that they want the program to stay, but some don’t appreciate its many spin-off benefits. The U.S. ENERGY STAR program doesn’t just give people the information they need to make better decisions on energy-efficient appliances, electronics, and home construction products. Sure, it does that, but it also does so much more.

ENERGY STAR certifies homes and buildings as “green,” similar to such other green certification programs such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Research shows that certified green buildings have lower operating costs, higher renewal rates and tenant satisfaction, and better financial performance than uncertified buildings. Oh and did I mention that they can often garner a higher resale value? In the U.S., green homes can fetch up to 30% more.

The program works directly with industry as well, providing energy data analysis tools, how-to guides that walk businesses through all aspects of energy management, and a host of other supporting resources. Their Portfolio Manager benchmarking tool, for example, lets companies input energy data from buildings and other facilities to see how their properties perform compared to others in the same sector. Most people, and especially CEOS, don’t like to see that they’re not as good as their competition, and that alone can be a powerful motivator for change.

ENERGY STAR was created in 1992 by then President George H. W. Bush. Since then, it has saved more than $600 billion (yes, that’s billion with a “b”) in utility costs. With an annual budget of just $50 million, it saves more than $30 billion a year in utility bills, a damned fine return on investment.

The move is even more puzzling given this administration’s mantra of jobs, jobs, jobs. ENERGY STAR supports a huge range of energy-efficiency work, which means full-time, well-paying jobs for engineers, technicians, consultants, contractors, energy managers, and many more.

So why are they considering dumping it? I can only speculate, but perhaps it has something to do with oil companies. Trump appointed Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil as his secretary of state, and other cabinet ministers are also directly tied to fossil fuel industries. ENERGY STAR doesn’t do much for them because its raison d’être is to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

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