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Technology Forcing Standards for Energy Efficiency

Project Objectives

This project will provide members of the 4E Executive Committee (ExCo) with a briefing on the potential for technology forcing standards to stimulate energy efficiency in appliances and equipment at a greater pace than is being achieved by most current national policy approaches. On the basis of this project, the 4E ExCo will decide whether to proceed with further work in this area, potentially including the establishment of a new Annex on this topic.

Project Team

Lead Country:  Canada

Contractor:  Kevin Lane (Oxford) Ltd, United Kingdom

Background

With respect to energy efficiency, the traditional approach to the transformation of markets for energy-using products typically involves the use of minimum energy performance standards to eliminate the worst performing products and a combination of comparative information and endorsement labelling to encourage consumers to purchase more efficient products. Often the latter are also deployed to support financial incentive programs. Technology commercialisation programs frequently accompany these to ensure the continuous introduction of new, more efficient products to the market.

This process can take a decade or more during which time less than optimally efficient equipment, most of which have long product lifetimes, is installed in the stock resulting in lost savings and foregone opportunities. Not only are inefficient technologies embedded in the stock but some have argued that innovations are not pursued with appropriate vigour because of the long lead times and investment horizons necessary to gain sufficient market share to offset technology development costs.

An alternative approach to market transformation could be focused more deliberately on approaches that accelerate the introduction of the most efficient technology. Most often this has involved support for basic research, product developement and improvement, commercialisation, market promotion, etc.

At present there may be discernable technology performance targets that could be realised in a way that eliminates a number of these steps and accelerates the process. In some cases, using targets that are broader than traditional product category boundaries could also encourage shifts to new ways of meeting demands for energy services.

To achieve these targets clear signals need to be given to markets that allow appropriate investment to take place more quickly. Mandatory standards that call up these performance standards may be a way to accomplish this.

UPDATE - AUGUST 2012

The final report on the 4E Research Overview of Technology-Forcing Standards for Energy Efficiency is now available for download.