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Posted on September 19, 2014

Proposed Commercial Air Conditioning Standards Would Save Businesses Billions

PG&E supports a U.S. Department of Energy proposal for new efficiency standards that would cut commercial rooftop air conditioner energy use by about 30 percent, saving businesses billions of dollars.

The proposal on Thursday (Sept. 18) would achieve the largest national energy savings of any standard ever issued by the department. A final rule for rooftop air conditioners is expected to be published by the end of 2015.

Vincent Davis, PG&E's senior director of energy efficiency, says the proposed national standards will further drive energy savings for customers.

Vincent Davis, senior director of energy efficiency for PG&E, said businesses will benefit.

“Commercial cooling is a big part of the electricity load in many parts of California,” Davis said. “Working through our efficiency programs, PG&E and the other California utilities have encouraged installation of high efficiency commercial cooling systems. These proposed new national standards will help further drive energy savings for customers.”

Air conditioners account for about 10 percent of a typical commercial building’s electricity costs.

“The new standards will drive innovative, energy-efficient air conditioners into buildings across America, not only saving businesses money, but also reducing electricity demand and environmental emissions,” said Steve Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

The Department of Energy estimates that over the lifetime of units sold over 30 years, the proposed standards would save businesses between $16 and $50 billion and reduce electricity consumption by about 1.3 trillion kilowatt-hours, or enough energy to cool all the commercial buildings in the United States for seven years.

The new standards would net a typical building owner between $3,500 and $16,500 over the life of a single commercial rooftop air conditioner. Overall savings will often be higher since most buildings have multiple units. For example, a big-box store can have more than 20 rooftop air conditioners.

Rooftop air conditioners are commonly used in low-rise buildings such as schools, restaurants, big-box stores and small office buildings. They cool about half of the total commercial floor space in the United States. (Most of the other half is cooled by chilled water systems, residential-type central air conditioners, or individual air conditioners mounted in windows or external walls.)

The current efficiency standards for rooftop air conditioners measure efficiency at full capacity despite the fact that air conditioners rarely operate at that level except on the hottest days. The new proposed standards are instead based on a metric that captures efficiency at 25, 50, 75 and 100 percent of full capacity, better reflecting real-world performance.

“Energy efficiency standards covering a range of products have been one of America’s most successful policies for meeting the nation’s energy needs,” said Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project. “Thanks to already existing standards, U.S. electricity use will be about 14 percent lower in 2035. The new commercial AC standards along with other new standards completed this year will add to that record of achievement.”

In 2013, President Obama established a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 3 billion metric tons by 2030 through efficiency standards. The Department of Energy is now about 70 percent of the way toward the president’s goal.

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