Energy Star is regarded by consumers as one of the most reliable raters of electronics and appliances in terms of knowing how much energy a device consumes. The organization continually raises the bar (little by little, but still raises) on energy efficiency and tests products to see if they meet requirements for an Energy Star ranking. However, looks like a recent audit shows that Energy Star isn't so reliable after all. The New York Times today reported that the Department of Energy (DOE) conducted an internal audit, and found that there isn't a tracking system in place to ensure that companies slapping an Energy Star label on their products have actually met Energy Star specifications for energy efficiency.
That's a bit of an issue. It means consumers can't trust one of the few green labels that has been thought to be reliable, all because Energy Star isn't going through a few extra steps to make sure their label is being used properly.
Energy Star has its history of shortcomings, from creating standards that aren't exactly stringent to not checking up that testing on electronics is up to snuff. But this really lays into the credibility of the label.
The report also noted that while the government said in 2007 that it would conduct "retail assessments" to ensure that all the products carrying the Energy Star logo deserved them, it is still not doing so for windows, doors, skylights, water heaters and solid-state lighting. And the department is not following through to ensure that when inappropriately labeled products are identified, the labels are actually taken off, the audit said.
If it can't be trusted, what good is a label?
It was just last year that 5 refrigerator models were stripped of their Energy Star labels because they failed to meet the criteria. So how many more supposedly Energy Star-qualified products are on the market right now sporting a label they haven't earned?
Lane Burt, the manager of building energy policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, points out that as the Energy Star program has grown so rapidly, it's not surprising that it is having "growing pains" though that doesn't make the mislabeling of products and the lack of verification acceptable.
The Energy Department and the E.P.A. signed a memorandum of understanding that attempts to address some of the problems found during the audit, including a "super star" program within Energy Star that ranks the best performing products ranked by efficiency.
That's nice, but how about first focusing on actually making sure that what products carry the label meet the specifications at all.
"For the sake of our environment and our economy, it's critical that we enforce our energy efficiency regulations," said Scott Blake Harris, General Counsel of the Department in a statement from the Department of Energy. "Strong enforcement of the rules will encourage compliance and keep manufacturers who break the law from having a competitive advantage over manufacturers who play by the rules."
More on Energy Star
Energy Star Labels Stripped from Five Fridge Models
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