The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Rosslyn, Va., will be pressing Congress in the next few months to preserve language in House and Senate energy bills now on Capitol Hill that it believes would benefit the electrical industry.

The House passed its energy bill in August, while the Senate passed its version in April. Several items in the proposed legislation, now awaiting conference, would be of particular importance to the electrical industry, and NEMA has focused its lobbying efforts on these areas: language requiring efficiency ratings for transformers to conform to those in NEMA standard TP1, TP2 and TP3; provisions requiring lighted exit signs and traffic signs be certified Energy Star products; a federal product procurement standard for motors based on the NEMA Premium motor efficiency standard; higher energy efficiency goals for new federal installations and retrofits; and the establishment of a consortium to develop solid-state lighting technology.

In an exclusive interview, Timothy Feldman, vice president, NEMA's government affairs, and Edward Gray, NEMA's director, energy policy, offered some additional insight into the proposed changes for these areas:

Lighted exit signs and traffic signs

Lighted exit signs would have to meet U.S. Department of Energy/Environmental Protection Agency EnergyStar program efficiency specifications. This would effectively require the use of light-emitting diode (LED) signs. LED exit signs save about $15-$20 a year in electricity costs, more than making up over time for their higher initial cost. These signs are also higher margin products.

Motors

High value NEMA Premium motors are available in sizes from 1 hp to 500 hp; motors available in the lower federally required efficiency levels are available in sizes 1 hp to 200 hp. NEMA Premium efficiencies are the highest possible without requiring redesigned motor starting systems. Manufacturers, utilities and energy efficiency advocacy groups all support and encourage the standards.

Construction and retrofit of federal buildings

The House and Senate energy bills treat federal building efficiency differently. NEMA prefers the Senate approach, which is based on exceeding the industry consensus standard of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America (IESNA), ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-1999. The Senate bill calls for new construction and retrofits to exceed this standard by 30 percent. The House bill includes numerical percent reductions in federal government energy use over time that would have to be assessed by the government agencies and requires that agencies buy efficient products, such as EnergyStar products.

Solid-state lighting technology

The legislation calls for the establishment of a solid-state lighting consortium to research and develop highly efficient lighting systems. The Senate bill specifically mentions the development of white LED systems. These systems could be used in interesting applications, such as curved walls that light spaces.

In addition to getting several provisions written into the legislation, NEMA also supports provisions for tax incentives for advanced meters and tax deductions for efficient commercial buildings. According to NEMA, to be eligible for the tax deduction, meters would need to have features that would make them amenable to applications where demand could be reduced automatically or through manual means.

For example, the meters might have to measure electricity use on an hourly basis so time-of-use rates could provide an incentive to the electricity user to reduce use at high-cost times of day. Besides reducing customer costs, this would reduce the need for inefficient high cost generation by the utility. The House and Senate energy bills also include a three-year tax life for the meters, which would further motivate meter sales.

For commercial buildings, the tax deduction is based on exceeding the ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-1999 standard. Since this is an industry standard, satisfying it is embedded in the normal process of designing buildings and inspecting them. The House and Senate bills call for reducing energy use 50 percent below the standard's specifications for the tax deduction. The provision would provide incentives for the use of higher value lighting and building systems. Only about half a dozen states require ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-1999 efficiency levels now, so this provision could have a huge impact.

During the last few hours of debate before the Senate passed its version of the Energy bill, senators produced a flurry of new tax and energy policy amendments that NEMA says are important to its members, including those that would authorize federal cost sharing funds for state rebate programs for energy-efficient products. According to NEMA's Edward Gray, the efficiency programs typically included by states are similar to those programs offered by utilities, or previously offered by utilities. These programs often offered rebates for the installation of energy-efficient lighting, motors and transformers.

Another new tax and energy policy amendment that NEMA says is important is a $1,250-per-home tax credit for manufactured homes that qualify the U.S. Department of Energy/Environmental Protection Agency EnergyStar program.

“We're gratified that this important legislation is moving toward passage,” said NEMA President Malcolm O'Hagan. “Energy efficiency was last addressed by Congress in 1992 and electric infrastructure was last addressed in 1978. In the last decade, we have witnessed considerable progress in the development of energy efficient technologies. Legislation has not kept pace. Since 1978, the entire nature of the electric power business has changed. It's high time for this legislation.”