Industry needs to understand a raft of regulatory actions concerning the energy efficiency of battery chargers and external power supplies (EPSs).  Failure to comply can result in severe consequences, including penalties, bans on distribution, and class action lawsuits.[1]

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently issued new efficiency rules for EPSs.  It is deferring action on battery chargers in light of rules adopted in California and other states for battery charger systems (BCSs). The California Energy Commission (CEC) enhanced its existing BCS rules effective January 1, 2014, and is developing stringent compliance rules.  Oregon has enacted requirements tracking the California rules for BCSs.  Other states are jumping on the California bandwagon.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to sunset the Energy Star program for BCSs in light of the California rules and other considerations, but it is keeping the Energy Star program for EPSs. 

Department of Energy

DOE’s decision on EPSs and battery chargers, 79 Fed. Reg. 7846 (Feb. 10, 2014), has been long awaited.  The DOE rulemaking dates back to 2012.    

The deadline for complying with the new and amended DOE standards for EPSs is February 10, 2016.  These standards include minimum average efficiency in active mode and maximum power in no-load mode.  The new standards apply to all direct operation EPSs, both Class A and non-Class A, with limited exceptions (certain medical devices, and certain AC-DC EPSs that charge the battery of a product that is fully or primarily motor operated).  Also, EPSs used for certain life safety and security equipment do not need to meet the no-load mode requirements.  Standards previously established by Congress for Class A EPSs will continue in force. 

Although DOE in 2012 had proposed standards for battery chargers, it has decided to defer standards for those devices at this time.  It is weighing for further consideration the promulgation of standards at a later date.  The driver for this decision is CEC’s setting of standards for BCSs in California (see below), which some other states have chosen to follow.  DOE indicated that manufacturers are already making efforts to meet the California requirements and are unlikely to create separate products for California (and for other states following the California rules) and the rest of the country.  DOE deferred setting its own BCS standards to avoid unnecessary disruption to the market, to provide some level of consistency and stability to affected entities, and to further evaluate the impacts associated with the California-based standards. 

States

California is at the forefront on state battery charger efficiency rules, and some other states are falling into line, with rules tracking those of California.

California.   CEC has had standards applicable to some BCSs since 2013.  Other CEC standards apply to:

  1. Large BCSs and certain USB-based small consumer BCSs manufactured on or after January 1, 2014;
  2. Non-consumer charger systems manufactured on or after January 1, 2017.  20 CCR § 1605.3(w).

CEC also has had rules for “state-regulated” EPSs, used with a variety of products, that became effective in 2007 and 2008.  Id. § 1605.3(u).  In light of DOE’s new EPS rules, the CEC EPS rules need to be measured against the strong preemption provisions of the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act, 42 U.S.C. § 6297. 

Industry needs to be particularly careful in relation to the California efficiency rules in light of stringent administrative enforcement regulations that CEC is developing.  CEC is considering an administrative civil penalty up to a statutory maximum—currently $2,500—for each violation, which vastly exceeds the $200 per violation penalty level that DOE can impose. 

  • Oregon.  Oregon standards for BCSs that track the CEC rules went into effect on January 1, 2014.  ORS 469.233(19); OAR 330-092-0015.
  • Washington.   Washington State House Bill 1017 would impose standards on BCSs that basically track CEC standards levels.  The bill has passed the state House and is pending in the state Senate.  
  • New Jersey. New Jersey Assembly Bill 1723 would provide for battery charger standards keyed to CEC standards.  

Energy Star

EPA has proposed to allow its Energy Star program for BCSs to sunset.  The agency has said that limited additional, cost-effective savings are available for those devices, and that the presence of the Energy Star program could be counterproductive in light of more stringent CEC rules.  EPA is currently considering comments on the proposal.