Last year, in a blog entitled “Harvest Time Is Over”, I discussed one of the downsides of an effective energy efficiency program: Once the low-lying fruit’s been picked and the early adopters are on board, the gains start to diminish and the momentum slows. So what can you do to inspire the “late adopters” and increase energy efficiency?
Raise the bar. That’s EPA’s approach, anyway. This week, the agency announced the addition of a new rating system to its popular Energy Star program: Energy Star Most Efficient. This new program element will “identify and advance highly efficient products in the marketplace” by identifying “the most efficient products among those that qualify for the Energy Star in particular product categories.” This year, the new designation will be made available—on a pilot basis—to the top 5% of products in the following categories: clothes washers, heating and cooling equipment, televisions, and refrigerator-freezers. According to EPA, “product categories were selected and recognition criteria were established to ensure that products that receive this recognition demonstrate efficiency performance that is truly exceptional, inspirational, or leading edge—consistent with the interests of environmentally motivated consumers and early adopters.”
In a statement about the new rating system, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said, “This new designation will help Americans save money and cut pollution by quickly pointing them to the best Energy Star products have to offer. Highlighting Energy Star’s Most Efficient products is a great way to encourage the strides in innovation that bring even more energy and money saving choices to our stores. We know American consumers are eager to make purchases that save them money on their utility bills and reduce the pollution in the air we breathe, and these labels will help them identify the best ways to find those purchases.”
Energy Secretary Steven Chu also commented on the new program, saying, “Over the last two decades, the Energy Star program has consistently offered consumers energy choices that have helped families save billions of dollars on their energy bills. The new Most Efficient designation is the next step towards encouraging new, more energy-efficient products to enter the market, so that consumers will have even more choices when it comes to high-performance, high-efficiency products that will save them energy and money.”
So what do you think? Can adding a “Most Efficient” tag to Energy Star help create a buzz and inspire early adopters to upgrade, while also casting a wide-enough net to draw in previously ambivalent (or lazy) consumers? Will the opportunity to earn an additional kudos from EPA inspire manufacturers to invest in the development of even more efficient products? And what about the argument that merely increasing the efficiency of existing products alone is not enough and that consumers must also be urged to use less?