The regional energy standards saga continues. If you’re a BelRed blog regular, you probably remember reading posts about the rollercoaster energy conservation litigation between the Department of Energy (DOE) and members of the energy industry, including the American Public Gas Association (APGA).

As we discussed in the first post on the subject, in July 2011 the Department of Energy published a direct final rule as part of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) that would require certain energy efficiency standards in different regions throughout the country.  One of these regulations was the implementation of a minimum 90% Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) standard for non-weatherized gas furnaces in the northern regions. These standards were set to be implemented on May 1st, 2013. Many industry members, including the APGA, thought this was too extreme and challenged the new regional standards.

In January of this year, the APGA (along with industry members) and the DOE reached what appeared to be an agreement to settle the challenge. The settlement agreement would, among other things, vacate the energy conservation standards, including the 90% AFUE requirements for northern regions. The settlement agreement required court approval, which turned out to take longer than expected. With the May 1st, 2013 compliance date fast approaching, the settlement has still yet to be approved by the court. As we discussed in our most recent post on the topic, this delay has been causing much uncertainty within the industry. Without a ruling, many feared major problems when it came to installation and availability of certain furnaces. While some of these problems may still arise prior to an official court ruling, the Department of Energy recently released an important statement on the issue.

On April 5th, the DOE released a statement that, in the absence of the court’s implementation of the settlement agreement, they will not enforce the regional energy conservation standards when the May 1st deadline hits. A portion of the statement announced that “in an exercise of its enforcement discretion, DOE will, during the pendency of the litigation, act in a manner consistent with the terms of the settlement agreement with regard to the enforcement of the standards.” This means non-weatherized gas furnaces with AFUE ratings of less than 90% can still be purchased and installed in our region, pending the court’s final decision.

This is somewhat settling news in an otherwise uncertain area not only for members of the home energy industry, but also for consumers in these regions who have been contemplating the installation of a new gas furnace. This decision by the DOE allows consumers more flexibility on or after May 1st as to their options when it comes to gas furnace upgrades and installations. Consumers will continue to have the ability to find a suitable balance between cost and energy efficiency. If you are thinking about a new furnace or want to talk about some of these options, please don’t hesitate to contact the team at BelRed today.

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