Regulatory Update and 2017 Outlook

Regulatory Update and 2017 Outlook

This piece was originally published in the February 2017 issue of electroindustry.

Alex Boesenberg, Manager, Government Relations, NEMA

In the closing weeks of the previous administration, the Department of Energy pushed numerous rules to completion in an effort to finalize as many regulatory actions as possible.

Power Electronics

Originally part of the rulemaking for battery chargers and external power supplies, uninterruptible power supply (UPS) technology was carved out in 2015 for an attempted rulemaking in the computer systems category, only to find that rule abandoned and UPS brought back into the battery charger regulation scope. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) then resumed work on the previously stalled battery charger rulemaking, updating the test procedures and then adding standards for UPS.

NEMA continues to oppose the energy standards as written (now in pre-publication final status), having voiced several concerns with the test procedures, proposed energy standards, and evidenced success of the existing ENERGY STAR® UPS program with respect to market transformation.

Electric Motors

Energy conservation standards were finalized for commercial and industrial (C&I) pumps through a negotiated rulemaking. The test procedures and standards for this rulemaking focused on the efficiency of the pump system and, as a result, included the performance of the electric motor and the drive and transmission, if installed at the time of manufacture.

Rulemakings for C&I compressors and C&I fans also regulate the system instead of individual components. The systems approach is in line with NEMA positions. We have long argued that installation and operation matter more than simple component efficiency. However, concerns exist that a rulemaking for a system might become a backdoor regulation for individual components.

Due in part to NEMA involvement, thus far all these systems rules (which the DOE calls “extended product regulations”) evaluate each system as a whole, without individual component performance mandates. This means the pump system must meet a certain efficiency, which may be reached by all manner of solutions, as opposed to individually mandated pump, motor, and drive efficiencies, for example. Since many or most electric motors are already regulated, concern was higher in the variable speed drive sector, a product section also represented by NEMA. There are currently no backdoor regulations in sight for NEMA products.

In early January 2017, the DOE announced a pre-publication final rule for certification, compliance, and enforcement (CCE) regulations for electric motors.  NEMA opposed the rule as proposed during the 2016 rulemaking process, citing numerous concerns for burden, especially that the rule as proposed would change how efficiency is calculated during enforcement reviews. This, we argued, was a de facto change in energy conservations standards.  Since this was an enforcement rulemaking, and not an energy conservation standards rulemaking, mandatory cost benefit analyses were not undertaken nor was manufacturing burden assessed deeply.  Now that the rule is imminent and has an implementation period of only 90 days, NEMA staff and members are discussing appropriate administrative or political actions to address continuing significant concerns.

In another action related to enforcement of DOE energy efficiency regulations, numerous industries participated in comments to a DOE-proposed rule to collect data regarding compliance with DOE energy conservation standards on products at the time of importation. This rulemaking seems stalled, owing to public comments regarding scope and feasibility.

It is critical to all industries that responsible importers and manufacturers not be burdened with complex reporting requirements while scofflaws may continue to ignore regulations due to ineffective enforcement practices. Collaboration between the DOE and Customs and Border Protection must be well scripted for importation enforcement to be undertaken effectively. NEMA continues to advocate for sensible, feasible enforcement of product standards, and we support government efforts to make improvements in this neglected area.

Lamps and Light Sources

The DOE also finalized several test procedure regulations for lamps and light sources, in preparation for finalizing standards for general service lamps (GSL).

The GSL rulemaking is not complete as of publication date, and NEMA expects the new administration will turn its attention to this rulemaking. GSL includes standard light-emitting diode (LED), compact fluorescents lamps (CFL), and incandescent lamps. Congress also authorized DOE to consider standards for lamps currently exempt from regulation.

This unpredictability notwithstanding, the 2017 regulatory landscape is sure to be interesting, and NEMA staff and members are prepared to react to—and, where needed, drive—these discussions and outcomes to the benefit of industry and customers.


In contrast to the DOE’s push to finalize as many rules as possible, recent work at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been slow and steady, at least with respect to ENERGY STAR programs. In December, the EPA announced that the ENERGY STAR Distribution Transformers program would launch as a pilot project, without formally finalizing the performance specification or program operating rules, in favor of a soft start using the final drafts as guidance.

NEMA Transformer Product Section members and many utility representatives continue to oppose the program.

Some routine updates and announcements for ENERGY STAR lighting programs were issued, none of which caused noticeable concern. The EPA also finalized a test procedure for electric vehicle (EV) charging systems and will start a program in 2017.


In California, rulemaking preparations for the next cycle of revisions to the Title 24 building energy efficiency regulations continue methodically. Early proposal concepts and budding research studies have begun.

NEMA is collaborating more effectively with California Energy Commission staff and other stakeholders, having campaigned for years to be involved as early as possible and to improve the proceedings with NEMA members’ technical expertise and experience. The outlook for 2017 is positive.


The Canadian government initiated two amendments to harmonize energy conservation standards with dozens of product regulations in the United States.

NEMA supports these amendments, favoring the practice of making one product to sell in multiple markets, and submitted comments on behalf of its electric motor manufacturers to allow for sufficient phase-in time, even though compliant products already exist. This would prevent stranded inventory by allowing the sell-through of products that may already be in or en route to Canadian warehouses.

With respect to radiated and conducted emissions requirements for lighting products, NEMA and ElectroFederation Canada (EFC) continue to work with a large group of manufacturing members to maintain harmonization of these regulations in North America. At issue is the Canadian government’s mandate to consider International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards when adopting new regulations or updating old ones. This is problematic for NEMA products. There is no established practice of this in the U.S., and the Federal Communications Commission is not considering any sweeping changes to emissions requirements. The adoption of the IEC standard for lighting product emissions (CISPR 15) in Canada would fracture the North American market.

NEMA and the EFC will continue to identify solutions that maintain harmonization between communications systems (i.e., spectrum licensees) and lighting products. Strong technical research and data-driven assessments are at the core of these efforts.

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