The US EPA and Department of Energy have announced changes to the Energy Star certification process to ensure that products meet the required standards. The changes will strengthen the verification, testing and enforcement aspects of the program after it has come in for some criticism in recent months.
In particular, an investigation from the US Government Accountability Office (GOA) concluded that Energy Star is for the most part a self-certification program vulnerable to fraud and abuse. The GOA managed to obtain Energy Star certifications for 15 bogus products, including a gas-powered alarm clock. The clock was described as being the size of a small generator and powered by gasoline. Another fictitious product, a computer monitor, was approved by Energy Star within 30 minutes of submission.
As of the start of last week, the EPA is no longer relying on an automated approval process. Manufacturers wanting Energy Star certification must submit complete lab reports and results and all new qualification applications will be reviewed and approved individually.
In addition, from the end of the year all manufacturers must submit test results from an approved, accredited lab for any product seeking the Energy Star label. Currently only certain product categories require testing from an accredited lab.
The Energy Star certification process always did sound like there was potential for abuse. Given that it’s becoming a global standard, at least for ICT equipment, it’s important that certification should be rigorous, so it’s good that the process has become more strict.
There is a downside, though, since it means manufacturers will have increased costs in getting product approval, which will be more of a burden for smaller companies and could, potentially, stifle innovation. There was one discussion in a Green IT group on LinkedIn pointing out that the result will be a reduction in test process flexibility, added cost and time delays. It was apparently on behalf of the NASBA, the North American association of channel resellers, calling for channel customers on the Energy Star certified list to give the EPA there views. It seems that the EPA wants feedback by April 30th.