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Spring  2001

High Energy


Opportunities Abound for Manufacturers

by alecia ward


In the summer of 2000, gasoline prices skyrocketed. In the fall of 2000, home heating fuel prices increased and shortages occurred in the Northwest causing a depletion of reserves in the Midwest and Northwest regions. In the winter of 2000, price spikes in natural gas went through the roof drawing more and more attention to the cost associated with inefficient products and homes that leak energy like sieves. Then there is California … 

Once the memories of this turbulent season have faded, the summer of 2001 will rear its head, and summer peak electric load will again remind consumers of the fine line which exists between keeping the lights on and the threat of darkness. I don’t write these statements to be an alarmist. I write them to be a realist and to talk about the unique opportunity window manufacturers and fabricators have to promote energy efficiency and sell more product.

Déjà vu; Act I All Over Again:
Those of us in the industry must use the next 12-18 months to capitalize on this unique time in history. Not since the energy crisis of the 1970s have Americans been so aware of their energy supply (or lack thereof) and the impact their behavior has upon that supply. Today, we have improved technologies—dramatically-programmable thermostats, compact fluorescent light bulbs and low-emissivity/high-performance windows, doors and skylights—whose rising market share can make the difference between “lights on” or “lights out.”

Who Are the Actors; What is the Plot?
In the Northwest, a group called the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance has been promoting ENERGY STAR® windows with National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) labels for the last three years and has been partnering with manufacturers, fabricators, retailers and builders to promote energy-efficient windows in the Northwest. Their effort in windows, combined with residential lighting and appliance programs, account for somewhere close to 20 Megawatts (MW) of energy savings in the region. Twenty MW may not seem like a lot, but in California 20 MW is the difference between night and day. 

Market transformation programs like the one in the Northwest work. Manufacturers and retailers who partner with those programs sell more product and increase their market share. The most recent evaluation of the windows program in the Northwest showed a market penetration increase from the 1997 baseline of 10-15 percent energy-efficient product to a first quarter 2000 estimate of 54 percent ENERGY STAR qualifying product. That is great news.

The even better news is that the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, Wisconsin Focus on Energy Program, Ohio State Department of Development and others will be working to promote the sale of energy-efficient fenestration products. As fabricators and manufacturers, you must seize the opportunity to participate in programs like these, wherever they occur.

How to Steal the Show
To participate in market transformation programs that promote energy-efficient fenestration, fabricators and manufacturers must test and label all of their products with NFRC labels. It is that simple. There must be a third-party standard for evaluating thermal and solar performance. In addition, the products must be ENERGY STAR labeled to make it easier for consumers, remodeling contractors, builders, utilities and code officials to determine whether products qualify.
Finally, a series of legislative initiatives will be introduced in several states over the next few months to promote the abatement of state sales tax at the point of purchase for ENERGY STAR qualifying products. In certain states, that will include windows. This final step toward promoting energy-efficient products may be one of the most powerful tools for galvanizing consumer support for these products. Stay abreast of these legislative issues and talk frequently with your local legislators about their value. These products add value to the continued economic development and well-being of the state, to the improved quality of life for consumers and to improved system reliability that results from the purchase of more efficient products.

Alecia Ward serves as executive director of the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance based in Chicago. 


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