A major overhaul to the Energy Star program, which currently certifies and labels products that are energy efficient, is imminent. How this overhaul occurs remains to be seen.

On the one hand, the two current agencies responsible for the Energy Star program- the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) – are trying to revise the program internally. But it’s not clear if the agencies’ actions will be enough:

"In response to complaints, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources included provisions in its American Clean Energy Leadership Act of 2009, introduced in July, that would require improvements to the Energy Star program … Senator Jeff Bingaman, the Democrat of New Mexico who introduced the clean energy legislation and is chairman of the Senate energy committee, says the changes are inadequate."

‘There are questions about stakeholder involvement in this process and effects on D.O.E. and E.P.A. staffing and budget,’ Mr. Bingaman said in a statement to Green Inc. ‘I’m going to ask the agencies to go back and take into account the views of the Congress and external stakeholders.’"

A key difference between the two proposals is that the EPA and DOE proposed the EPA take over the products portion of Energy Star; Senator Bingaman has proposed that the DOE remain involved in Energy Star products and specifically oversee the solid state lighting portion of the program. Two questions immediately come to mind when reviewing the proposed overhaul plans to Energy Star.

First, why is the DOE willing to give up Energy Star products to the EPA? Turns out, the DOE has focused on a new building labeling system:

"[Cathy] Zoi, [the DOE’s new assistant secretary for energy efficiency] pointed out that while D.O.E. has lost some of its Energy Star territory in the deal, it gained ownership of a new program that will develop an efficiency rating tool and labeling scheme for assessing energy in buildings — a major source of infrastructural inefficiency."

Second, how many more green labels can be created before consumers can no longer discern between them? Among the many plans put forth by the EPA and DOE, the agencies have proposed a "’Super Star’ label to identify products that perform in the top five percent of any given category."

Are you confused by the myriad of green building and product labels yet?

Related Links:

Congress and Agencies Debate an Overhaul to the Federal Energy Star Program (New York Times)