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Energy Regulatory Update - July 22, 2013

DOE Takes First Step Towards Prescribing Energy Conservation Standards for Computers and Computer Servers

On July 12, 2013, the Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy issued two proposed determinations that [computers][hyperlink 1] and [computer servers][hyperlink 2] qualify as “covered products” under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (“EPCA”). If DOE issues final determinations that computers and servers are a “covered product” under EPCA, DOE can then prescribe energy conservation standards for these products after issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking for public comment. To date, DOE has not previously conducted an energy conservation standard rulemaking for computers or computer servers.

 

Comments on DOE’s proposed determinations must be submitted on or before August 12, 2013.


Background


Part A of Title III of EPCA established the “Energy Conservation Program for Consumer Products Other Than Automobiles,” which covers certain consumer and commercial products (“covered products”). EPCA authorizes the Secretary of Energy to classify consumer products as “covered products” if: (1) the covered product is “necessary for the purposes of EPCA” and (2) the average annual per-household energy use by such products is likely to exceed 100 kWh per year. Once a consumer product is designated a “covered product,” the Department of Energy can then prescribe an energy conservation standard subject to certain findings.


Proposed Determinations


DOE’s proposed determinations assert that classifying computers and computer servers as “covered products” is warranted because aggregate use of the products is significant and coverage will enable the conservation of energy supplies through both labeling programs and the regulation of the products’ energy efficiency. DOE also has tentatively determined that, based on its calculations, the average annual per-household energy use for computers and computer servers is likely to exceed 100 kWh/year. DOE states that these two findings satisfy EPCA’s requirements for listing as “covered products.”


As part of the proposed determinations, DOE has proposed a definition of computers that includes (but is not necessarily limited to) desktop computers, integrated desktop computers, laptop/notebook/netbook computers, and workstations. DOE defines a computer server as a computer that provides services and manages networked resources for client devices, and is accessed via network connections (versus directly interconnected input devises such as a keyboard or a mouse).


Request for Comments


While DOE invites comments on all aspects of the proposed determinations, it is specifically interested in comments that address whether:

  • the definition of computers and computers servers accurately defines these consumer products;
  • classifying computers or computer servers as covered products is necessary or appropriate to carry out the purposes of EPCA;
  • DOE has accurately established calculations and values for average household energy consumption;
  • technologies are available for improving the energy efficiency of computers and computer servers; and
  • there are other considerations that would affect DOE’s ability to establish test procedures and energy conservation standards for computers and computer servers.

After comments have been submitted and reviewed, DOE will issue a final determination. If DOE ultimately determines that computers or computer servers qualify as “covered products,” DOE will then consider test procedures and energy conservation standards, publish those procedures and standards, and issue them for public comment.

 

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