Moving into the 21st Century

Moving into the 21st Century

How Did We Get Here?: A Brief History of NEMA, Part Three


In 1977, NEMA moved from New York City to Washington, D.C., a change that reflected the association’s strong interest in the connections between business and politics. Consulting relationships with federal government agencies, especially the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, became stronger. NEMA worked closely with the FTC to develop regulations that would favor U.S. technical standards over competing foreign standards.

On the standards front, NEMA had several high-profile successes in the 1980s, including a widely adopted ultrasound imaging and diagnostic standard that was praised by the Food and Drug Administration. New medical technologies were embraced by the association, which reconstituted the x-ray and electromedical apparatus section as a full division with representation for x-ray, radiation therapy, and electromagnetic imaging device manufacturers.

Globalization became a watchword for industry and politics in the 1990s. For NEMA, the term signified active cooperation with European standards-writing organizations and involvement with the Council for Harmonization of Electrotechnical Standards of the Nations of the Americas (CANENA). NEMA CANENA_LogoOnly-2expanded its role in the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization of Standardization (ISO), seeking to overcome technical barriers to trade and fully open foreign markets to American-made electrical products. NEMA further broadened its global influence in 2000 by opening an office in Mexico.

In the transition between millennia, energy conservation took on renewed importance, as power disruptions in various parts of the country raised questions about the electrical infrastructure. Fluctuating oil prices, consumer gas price increases, and electricity all contributed to a public call for greater conservation and efficiency.

As in earlier years, NEMA stepped to the forefront of a national energy debate, testifying several times in Congress and the Department of Energy and using online tools for the first time to engage member companies in a grassroots lobbying campaign. The Energy Policy Act of 1992, the first comprehensive energy policy legislation with which NEMA engaged, focused federal minimum energy efficiency standards for lighting, motors, and transformers.

In 2001, NEMA motor manufacturers established the NEMA Premium® Efficiency Electric Motor Campaign, a national labeling and marketing program to promote specification and application of premium efficiency electric motors. It called for higher efficiency than existing federal standards. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, the first comprehensive energy bill since 1992, included a first-ever tax incentive, championed by NEMA, to increase efficiency in commercial buildings, and it expanded energy-efficiency standards for NEMA products. In the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, NEMA was named to work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology on smart grid standards. Another major provision was to adopt energy-efficient lighting with a transition to more efficient light bulbs.

The 21st century continues to accelerate the pace of change through globalization, tumbling trade barriers, industry consolidations, the widespread use of new communications technologies, and strategic initiatives that focus on cybersecurity and connected systems. These changes continue to demonstrate NEMA’s ability to evolve to meet its members’ objectives.

This is the third and final excerpt from “How Did We Get Here?: A Brief History of NEMA,” published in the January 2016 issue of ei, the magazine of the electroindustry. Click here to view the full issue.

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