March 31, 2009 / 3:55 PM / 10 years ago

Senate panel debates energy efficiency bills

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee began debate on Tuesday on measures that would strengthen appliance efficiency standards and help U.S. manufacturers use less energy.

The proposed legislation would revamp the Energy Department’s program that develops efficiency rules for household appliances by allowing individuals to petition the department to revise standards or test procedures. The department would be required to respond to these requests.

The bill would also set new efficiency standards for table and floor lamps based on rules adopted in California‚ÄĒsaving the amount of electricity needed to power 350,000 homes by 2020.

Under the legislation, the Energy Department would have to study compliance with the standards program and examine the need to implement efficiency guidelines for “plug-in” products such as computers and battery chargers. In addition, the department would be obligated to consider “efficiency opportunities” for electric motors.

U.S. President Barack Obama has made efficiency a key component of his energy and environmental agenda. The White House web site refers to energy efficiency as the “cheapest, cleanest, fastest” energy source.

The economic stimulus package passed by Congress in February allotted $2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy research.

The pending Senate legislation would promote energy efficiency for U.S. manufacturing companies through financing incentives and grants for development of new technologies.

The committee will also consider a measure that would double spending on research and development at the Energy Department. This measure would also create a program focused manufacturing batteries for electric vehicles.

Measures approved by the panel are expected to be rolled into a comprehensive energy package this year addressing the development and use of clean energy sources and energy efficiency.

Other more controversial issues including establishing a renewable energy electricity standard and providing the federal government with greater siting authority for the expansion of the U.S. electric grid will be debated by the panel some time after Congress’ spring recess.

Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

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