ENERGY STAR vs. EISA

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I’m confused about the difference between the US ENERGY STAR and the recent US Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA 2007). Why is the government promoting two sets of specs? What’s the difference?
In the energy efficiency regulations world, there are two types of programs; voluntary (developing specifications) and mandatory (developing standards). Each type has been shown to transform products to become more efficient in the markets they address; mandatory standards do so immediately upon their effective date while voluntary specifications do so over a longer period of time.

The early efficiency programs that appeared in the 1990’s (i.e. European Commission Code of Conduct and US ENERGY STAR) were voluntary in nature and offered manufacturers a chance to decide if and when they would improve their product’s power consumption. In the case of ENERGY STAR, conforming manufacturers used the ENERGY STAR logo on their products to elevate their product’s image with consumers over non-conforming competitors. Voluntary programs tend to have two tiers of specifications when they are launched, with looser specifications in the first stage (tier).

Recently, governments have decided to attack energy efficiency more aggressively and have developed mandatory product efficiency standards. (EISA falls into this category.) This means that all products in the affected group (i.e. computers) must meet certain minimum efficiency levels or they can’t be sold in that region of the world. Some of these standards are based on data collected from the earlier voluntary programs.

Having both types of efficiency programs has shown to be useful, with the voluntary ones specifying tougher specs early on and the mandatory ones following up a few years later re-issuing those specs as standards for all manufacturers to follow.