Modern forms of energy can be consumed at the point of end-use to provide numerous energy services such as space conditioning, illumination, hygienic services, cooking, and food preservation. Occupants of architectural spaces—residential and commercial—with some exceptions rely on one or more grid fuels to provide these energy services. The principle grid fuels are natural gas and electricity. (An example of a less common grid “fuel” is district heating.) The electrification movement in the 20th century proved to be near-universal, while natural gas has been less thorough in its penetration. In circumstances where the build-out of grids has not occurred, various other fuels provide the chemical energy needed for energy services.
Among grid-based options, electricity is a premium fuel noted for the ease with which it can be transmitted long distances and distributed; its suitability for devices having flexible operating characteristics such as turn-down, variable speed, and portability; its grid topology and network characteristics that allow it to be distributed to terminal points of end-use that can in turn feed-in power back to the grid; and the variety of prime movers from which it can be generated using diverse fuels. Electricity emits no air pollutants at the point of use, and its generation can be accomplished free of air emissions using nuclear fuel1 or via non-chemical, non-extractive resources such as solar, hydroelectric, wind, and geothermal.2
Natural gas is transported via 300,000 miles of pipelines to most areas of the United States. Its principal component, methane, burns relatively cleanly and completely at a variety of scales. In commercial and residential buildings, natural gas is used (i.e., combusted) mainly for cooking and to supply heat for space conditioning and hygienic services (hot water, drying clothes). Bunker fuels, propane and petroleum residuals (i.e., the heavier hydrocarbon molecules or “fractions”) and distillates, are distributed via surface transportation chiefly in areas not served by natural gas pipelines. These fuels nonetheless provide some of the same energy services as pipeline (grid) natural gas. Combusted at the point of end-use, these provide fuels for industrial processes, provision of hot water for hygienic services, furnaces for space conditioning, and fuels for electric generators. In the case of both grid natural gas and bunker fuels and other non-grid fuels, the resultant gases are typically not scrubbed, or only minimally so, before being diluted in the troposphere. Emissions include greenhouse gases, acidifying gases, and ozone precursors.
1 Minute quantities of radioactive gases and liquids are emitted under controlled circumstances. See Nuclear Regulatory Commission, “Radiation Monitoring at Nuclear Power Plants,” updated March 20, 2020, https://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc/radiation/protects-you/radiation-monitoring.html.
Appliances and equipment that provide energy services harness technology as simple as Ohmic heating (cooking, space conditioning), ranging to the familiar electric motor, such as for fans in air handlers (ventilation), to the more complex thermodynamic cycles of air conditioners and refrigerators (space conditioning, food preservation). Equipment in the building’s infrastructure uses physical principles to adapt the voltage and current of electricity to make it suitable for end-use devices. Natural gas appliances use combustion technology.
Some of these appliances consume water at the point of use. For example, residential dishwashers consume water while providing hygienic services.
Devices with improved thermodynamic, mechanical, or electrical performance can deliver the same quantity of an energy service while consuming less fuel and water. This formula is the basis for many programs at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which since 1977 has administered programs of research and development, standards (e.g., for appliances and vehicles), rebates, and other measures affecting all portions of the energy value chain (NRC, 2001) as well as water consumption. These programs deliver economic, environmental, and security benefits (NRC, 2001). Consuming less means lowered demand and a proportional reduction in the impacts on human health and the environment (NRC, 2010) owing to the decreased level of extraction of primary energy resources and their processing, conversion, delivery, and end-use. It also can mitigate the risk of disruption of energy supply resulting from resource nationalism or armed conflict. For households or landlords, improved appliances and equipment can offer lowered energy and water costs, which can lead to positive net benefits when purchase costs and other factors are considered.
DOE issues “standards regulations” for energy and water conservation pursuant to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 as amended and other authorities. These standards regulations apply to the appliances and equipment that provide energy services. The regulations also apply to the building infrastructure that converts or distributes energy. All of these are issued by rulemaking and typically include maximum water and energy use or minimum energy conservation standards.
DOE undertakes peer reviews of its assumptions, models, and methodologies (“analytical methods”) in the Appliance and Equipment Standards Program. These periodic reviews conform to the Office of Management and Budget’s guidance3 on the use of scientific information, and the first one was performed in 2007 (DOE, 2007). In 2017, DOE noted its intention to conduct a peer review of the analytical methods used in setting the standards regulations.4
Following a request from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine entered into a contract on July 15, 2019, with DOE to conduct a peer review of the analytical methods in the buildings standards regulations. The National Academies established the Committee on Review of Methods for Setting Building and Equipment Performance Standards. Committee member biographical information is provided in Appendix A.
3 Office of Management and Budget, 2005, “Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review,” Federal Register 70: 2664, January 14.
4 See Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 2017, “Energy Conservation Program for Appliance Standards: Proposed Procedures for Use in New or Revised Energy Conservation Standards and Test Procedures for Consumer Products and Commercial/Industrial Equipment,” Federal Register 84: 3910-3953, February 13, p. 3936.
Per the contract, the committee is charged with the following:
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will appoint a committee to peer review the analytical methods employed by DOE in setting standards regulations. DOE sets these standards following procedures and methods designated in the 1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act. In conformance with the requirements of EPCA and Executive Order 12866, DOE implements a set of analyses that accompany its regulations. The methods used in conducting these analyses will be the subject of the study, and in reviewing these methods the committee will give due consideration to analytical focus areas of interest in setting standards regulations. DOE may also provide specific methodological questions for the committee to address. At the conclusion of the study the committee will issue a report that makes findings and recommendations on how DOE can improve its analyses and align its regulatory analyses with best practices for cost- benefit analysis.
While conducting this study, committee members relied on their own expertise, information from publications they judged to be of high quality, and many interactions with officials from Building Technologies Office of DOE and its contractors. A list of the committee activities is included as Appendix B.
DOE provided the committee with the full suite of analyses for standards regulations for each of the following three product classes in the Appliance and Equipment Standards Program: (1) residential dishwashers, (2) commercial refrigeration equipment, and (3) residential furnaces. DOE had developed the analyses for these product classes to support specific rulemaking efforts (i.e., the administrative process of setting standards regulations). The three rulemakings provide examples of product categories in wide deployment. The three product categories are diverse in the type of energy service delivered, the novel issues they instantiated, and the consumer behaviors of relevance to each. Nonetheless, the committee found commonalities among them, and many of the committee’s findings and recommendations proved robust across all three illustrative product classes. DOE also discussed other standards from its Appliance and Equipment Standards Program—there are more than 70—in response to the committee’s queries.
Chapter 2 reviews the statutory background for the DOE Appliance and Equipment Standards Program going back to 1975. It also describes the Executive Orders and laws that affect the analyses to support standards setting. Lastly, it provides a conceptual overview of how the committee has undertaken its work to evaluate the analyses DOE has chosen to conduct based on statutory and other considerations. Chapter 3 evaluates those analyses chiefly concerned with engineering that support the Standards Program. Chapter 4 considers the economic analyses DOE conducts. Chapter 5 situates the DOE Appliance, Equipment Standards Program within the broader suite of interventions DOE makes on energy consuming appliances and equipment; the chapter in particular considers how these interventions may be related to or affect the Regulatory Impact Analysis. Chapter 6 anticipates future changes that might occur in the use of fuels to provide energy services by the appliances and equipment considered in the Standards Program and the implications these might have for the analyses DOE will conduct in the future in support of the program.
Some readers may first want context about the changes under way in the electric grid. The section “The Integrated Grid” in Chapter 6 provides such a description. Furthermore, readers wanting to gain
additional background on the marketplace for appliances and equipment and on consumer choice could read the sections, “Error! Reference source not found.” and “Conceptual Model of Consumer Choice,” in Chapter 4.
DOE (U.S. Department of Energy). 2007. Energy Conservation Standards Rulemaking Peer Review Report: Prepared Pursuant to the Office of Management and Budget’s “Final Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review.” Washington, DC. February.
NRC (National Research Council). 2001. Energy Research at DOE: Was It Worth It? Energy Efficiency and Fossil Energy Research 1978 to 2000. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
NRC. 2004. The Hydrogen Economy: Opportunities, Costs, Barriers, and R&D Needs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
NRC. 2010. Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.