By Kyle Pitsor, Vice President of Government Relations, NEMA
I joined NEMA from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s international trade agency in 1982.
When NEMA moved its headquarters from New York City to Washington, D.C., in 1977, the change of venue reflected the growing interest and impact of government policy on the electrical equipment and medical imaging industries. The initial focus was on the newly created Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but during the past thirty years NEMA’s government policy work has expanded to take into account the roles of various federal, state, and international policymakers on the industry and the markets it serves.
Much of the early policy work built on NEMA’s technical standards strength to advocate for government adoption of voluntary industry electrical safety and performance standards in lieu of the government writing its own standards. NEMA standards were adopted for use in government procurements, and NEMA worked with the Federal Trade Commission on product labeling.
NEMA won praise from the Food and Drug Administration in the 1980s for its ultrasound imaging standards. The 1980s also saw NEMA working on trade policy issues with the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative, and Congress, particularly in order to open foreign markets to U.S. products through changes in overseas procurement laws affecting utility power equipment and early work to address technical barriers to trade.
During the late 1980s, NEMA initiated efforts to develop relationships with Congress, particularly among key members and staff on committees that had jurisdiction over NEMA policy areas. This increased attention to congressional relations led the NEMA Board of Governors to establish a NEMA Political Action Committee (NEMA PAC) in 1999. Through the PAC, NEMA member executives have been able to provide financial support to members of Congress and candidates who support industry priorities and serve as champions for industry issues on Capitol Hill.
Another area of significant policy growth has been energy policy and energy efficiency. NEMA members’ technologies are at the heart of the U.S. electrical system. Beginning with the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and continuing today, NEMA has been a major player in developing legislation backed by the industry, including major energy and energy tax legislation in 2005, 2007, and 2009. This has also led to active work with the Department of Energy to promote research and development and, in the regulatory sphere, establish minimum federal energy efficiency standards for a number of NEMA products. Efforts today include regulatory reform to balance the costs and benefits of such requirements.
Over the past several years, the association’s policy work at the state level has grown as well. Today, state advocacy represents nearly 45 percent of the association’s overall advocacy budget. Important areas include environmental recycling programs in the lighting, battery, and thermostat industries and the promotion of shared responsibility principles in the establishment of state initiatives.
NEMA’s strength in codes and standards development has also been reflected in state lobbying to advance adoption of updated electrical, fire, building, and safety codes. Recent efforts include state regulations impacting the installation and deployment of state-of-the-art electric grid technologies and new areas of energy storage, demand response, and distribution automation.
It would be impossible in this short column to recount all the tremendous changes that have taken place in NEMA’s policy advocacy work over the past 30 years. The association’s proactive work in legislation and regulation has been made possible by the dedicated leadership and support of NEMA member companies and their representatives. Today, NEMA’s policy advocacy places the industry at the forefront on electrical safety, reliability, resilience, efficiency, and energy security.
This is the third and final installment in the 30+30+30=90 Years at NEMA series. Originally published in the January 2016 issue of ei, the magazine of the electroindustry.