DOE Issues a Notification of Proposed Interpretive Rule (NPIR) and Request for Comment to Eliminate Separate Product Classes for Non-Condensing and Condensing Vented Appliances.
Yesterday, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued a pre-publication Federal Register notice of proposed interpretive rule pertaining to performance-related features of certain appliances. On January 15, 2021, DOE published a final interpretive rule in the Federal Register determining that, in the context of residential furnaces, commercial water heaters, and similarly-situated products or equipment, use of non-condensing technology (and associated venting) constitutes a performance-related “feature” under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA), that cannot be eliminated through adoption of an energy conservation standard. This interpretation was as a result of a petition filed by the gas industry including AGA, American Public Gas Association (APGA), Spire Inc., etc., and was a very positive finding in support of assisting in keeping, cost effective natural gas furnaces, water heaters, and other types of vented gas appliances available for consumers. The interpretation basically established separate product classes for residential and commercial vented gas furnaces and commercial water heaters into non-condensing types and condensing types. DOE states that it “deems prudent to revisit its interpretation” but provides no request by anyone or organization to revise the interpretation. DOE goes on to state that “for the reasons stated in this document, DOE proposes to return to its previous and long-standing interpretation (in effect prior to the January 15, 2021 final interpretive rule), under which the technology used to supply heated air or hot water is not a performance-related “feature” that provides a distinct consumer utility under EPCA”. DOE is requesting comments on its proposed interpretation and reports that once they arrive at a final interpretation, they plan to again “evaluate whether amended energy conservation standards would result in significant savings of energy, be technologically feasible, and be economically justified, consistent with its interpretation.” DOE will accept comments, data, and information regarding this notice until 30 days after the notice has published in the Federal Register. DOE will send a follow-up email to announce the closing date once the notice has published. Interested persons may submit comments identified by docket number EERE–2018–BT–STD-0018, by email (ResFurnaceCommWaterHeater2018STD0018@ee.doe.gov) or Federal eRulemaking portal (http://www.regulations.gov). The AGA staff is reviewing the rationale that DOE has stated is justification to revert back to its previous interpretation that did not separate vented gas appliances by noncondensing and condensing types and will develop our response to support the current interpretation. We request that the BECS committee members also review the DOE NPIR and provide us with feedback on the DOE interpretation. Keep in mind that DOE has proposed a very short comment period of 30 days from the time the NPIR appears in the Federal Register.
AGA and APGA Comments in Response to ICC Staff Draft of Electric Vehicle Charging Code Language.
As part of its new approach to energy efficiency code issues, the International Code Council (ICC) has begun developing “resource” documents to aid jurisdictions looking for additional energy efficiency and decarbonization code options. The initial document that the ICC staff prepared was regarding suggested model code provisions for Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations/infrastructure. The ICC staff requested comments on these EV code provisions by this past Monday, August 16. We have previously reported that AGA and APGA along with the National Association of Home Builders, etc. were successful last fall, in appealing similar EV provisions from being included in the 2021 Internal Energy Conservation Code (IECC) and the energy provisions in the International Residential Code. Our successful appeal was based on the fact the EV charging stations were not within the scope of the IECC or International Residential Code energy provisions and there is no way to determine energy consumption reductions with EV charging stations and in fact, more electric consumption would result in homes and buildings that installed EV stations. Because all states are now reviewing the 2021 IECC provisions for adoption as required by federal law, the concern we have with the ICC staff developing model code language for adoption is that this language can be included as an amendment in the states adoption process of the 2021 IECC and Residential Energy Code provisions. ( Recall that the June 25, 2021 Update on End Use Codes and Standards reported that the “New Buildings Institute (NBI) and RMI Joined Forces to Support Model Energy Code Proposals Aimed at Prohibiting Natural Gas in the Built Environment” by using support for amendments to states adoption processes of the 2021 IECC and these “resource” documents can be used to support that effort ). Also, since the ICC staff is authoring the code provisions, it would appear that the ICC as an organization, was in support of the provisions. For that reason, the AGA and APGA joint comments point out our concerns with the ICC developing “resource” documents as well as the fact that this model code language is being developed outside of the formal code development process that does not undergo the public review that all ICC proposals undergo. The AGA/APGA comments in response to the ICC EV charging infrastructure are attached along with a red-lined version of the ICC resource document. We expect that the next ICC staff “resource” document will include draft provisions on requiring all new homes be built “electric ready” for installing electric HVAC systems and water heaters even when the homes are built with natural gas furnaces and water heaters. We will report any response we receive from the ICC on our concerns with this “resource” document development process.
State Codes Activity Update.
Attached is a weekly feature of the “Friday Update” covering state code calendar activities as presented by the online utility “Fiscal Note,” which is sponsored by APGA and AGA Code and Standards. Please review the update and determine if there are state code activities that impact your service territory or organization.