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Department of Energy Solicits Comments on Energy Efficiency Standards for External Power Supplies

May.29.2020

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued a Request for Information (RFI) last week soliciting comments no later than July 6, 2020, on possible revisions to the energy efficiency standards for external power supplies (the EPS Rule). The RFI comes only two weeks after DOE issued a similar RFI on the test procedures for battery chargers, which we described here. DOE’s newest RFI may presage significant changes in the EPS Rule and result in new, burdensome regulations for manufacturers and importers of consumer products.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act

As our Energy Efficiency and Appliance Standards Team has previously discussed here and here, DOE administers the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) by setting mandatory appliance efficiency and conservation standards for over 60 covered products, including refrigerators, vacuums, many smart appliances, and of course battery chargers and external power supplies.

Each efficiency standard has two components: (1) a device-specific conservation standard and (2) an associated test procedure which the manufacturer must apply to demonstrate compliance with that conservation standard. Failure to comply with these standards is costly. DOE can seek penalties of up to $460 for each non-compliant unit sold or made available for sale, with up to a five-year look back.

EPCA compliance is generally the responsibility of either the manufacturer of a covered product or the importer of the product if the product was manufactured outside of the U.S. Retailers serving as importers of record would therefore assume responsibility for compliance and should pay close attention to these developments.

The Request for Information

DOE’s RFI seeks feedback on the regulations governing external power supplies, which are defined as external power supply circuits that are used to convert household electric current into DC current or lower-voltage AC current to operate a consumer product. The outcome of this RFI may have significant impacts for any company which manufactures or imports products which operate using an external power supply.

Among the many issues DOE is investigating are:

  • Whether consumer products with USB output ports, including laptops, TVs, refrigerators, lamps, and power strips, should be regulated as external power supplies;
  • Whether DOE should promulgate efficiency standards for wireless chargers, most of which are not currently subject to energy efficiency standards;
  • How the EPS Rule should regulate products that operate in “idle mode” or “sleep mode” greater than seventy-five percent of the time; and
  • Information on the emerging market for smart appliances and whether and to what extent the EPS Rule affects the growth of the smart appliance market.

DOE will use the feedback from this RFI to propose updated external power supply standards. Whether the agency proposes more stringent standards is dependent partly on the responses to the RFI. Comments from interested parties must be submitted no later than July 6, 2020.

For more information, please contact the professional(s) listed below, or your regular Crowell & Moring contact.

Tyler A. O'Connor
Counsel – Washington, D.C.
Phone: +1 202.624.2929
Email: toconnor@crowell.com
Matthew B. Welling
Counsel – Washington, D.C.
Phone: +1 202.624.2588
Email: mwelling@crowell.com
Charlene Sun
Associate – Orange County
Phone: +1 949.798.1329
Email: csun@crowell.com