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Update on Recent Department of Energy Rulemaking Activities

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced the following regulatory actions of potential interest to Hong Kong and mainland Chinese exporters of compressors, commercial air conditioning and heating equipment, high-intensity discharge lamps, battery chargers and external power supplies. The DOE is also allowing interested parties to submit additional comments on its December 2015 proposal regarding certification of admissibility.

Certification of Admissibility
The DOE is giving interested parties until 15 June to submit additional input on a December 2015 proposal to require that persons importing any covered product or equipment subject to an applicable energy conservation standard provide a certification of admissibility to the DOE through the Automated Commercial Environment prior to importation. The agency is particularly interested in receiving comments and views on how to minimise the burden of data collection to importers of covered products or equipment while at the same time providing the DOE with traceability information sufficient to determine whether a covered import has been previously identified as non-compliant with the relevant standard and, if so, to provide CBP a description of the non-compliant product that is sufficient to enable that agency to identify the subject merchandise and refuse admission thereof into the customs territory of the United States.

The DOE proposed that an importer provide information on its most recent submission in the Compliance and Certification Management System (CCMS), specifically the CCMS ticket number, the CCMS attachment identification number assigned to the certification submission, and the line number in the submission corresponding to the basic model certified. Because the DOE makes determinations of non-compliance on a basic model basis, identification of the certified basic model number of the covered import would allow the agency to accurately determine whether the covered import belongs to a basic model that has previously been found to be non-compliant with applicable energy conservation standards.

The DOE received comments in response to its proposal suggesting the submission of alternative data elements to achieve its traceability requirements, such as brand and basic model number of the product or brand and individual model number. One commenter stated that importers may already provide to CBP the model number of the covered products or equipment that they import, such that the DOE may be able to rely on this information in lieu of additional information that it may require. Commenters also recommended that the DOE allow multiple paths for importers of covered products to provide traceability information for their products.

Compressors
The DOE is proposing new energy conservation standards for compressors that, if adopted, would apply to all covered products manufactured in or imported into the United States starting five years after the publication of a final rule. Subject compressors are those that are air compressors, rotary or reciprocating compressors, driven by a brushless electric motor, and distributed in commerce with a compressor motor nominal horsepower greater than or equal to 1 and less than or equal to 500 and that operate at a full-load operating pressure of greater than or equal to 31 and less than or equal to 225 pounds per square inch gauge.

The DOE has tentatively concluded that the proposed standards represent the maximum improvement in energy efficiency that is technologically feasible and economically justified and would result in the significant conservation of energy. In addition, compressors achieving the proposed standards are already commercially available for all proposed equipment classes. However, the DOE notes that it is seriously considering the adoption of a more stringent energy efficiency standard in this rulemaking. The DOE will hold a public meeting on this proposal (which will also be broadcast as a webinar) on 20 June. The agency also welcomes comments, data and information regarding this proposal by 18 July.

Commercial AC and Heating Equipment
The DOE recently confirmed the 16 May effective date of a January 2016 direct final rule that established amended energy conservation standards for small, large and very large air-cooled commercial package air conditioning and heating equipment and commercial warm air furnaces. Compliance with the amended standards will be required for all covered products manufactured in or imported into the United States starting on 1 January 2018 or 1 January 2023, depending on the product’s specifications.

HID Lamps
The DOE has withdrawn a proposal originally published in December 2011 and updated in May 2014 that would have established energy test procedures for high-intensity discharge lamps in light of the fact that the agency published a final determination on 9 December 2015 concluding that energy conservation standards for such lamps are not justified.

Battery Chargers
The DOE has amended the energy test procedure for battery chargers by (i) updating the battery selection criteria for multi-voltage, multi-capacity battery chargers; (ii) harmonising the instrumentation resolution and uncertainty requirements with the second edition of the International Electrotechnical Commission 62301 standard for measuring standby power; (iii) defining and excluding back-up battery chargers from the testing requirements; (iv) outlining provisions for conditioning lead acid batteries; (v) specifying sampling and certification requirements for compliance with future energy conservation standards; and (vi) correcting typographical errors in the current test procedure. These changes will be mandatory for product testing to demonstrate compliance with any future energy conservation standards that the DOE may adopt and for any representations made regarding the energy consumption or energy efficiency of battery chargers made on or after 16 November.

The DOE will hold a public meeting on 9 June and accept public input by 18 July on a separate proposal to revise the battery charger test procedure by adding a discrete test procedure for uninterruptible power supplies to the current procedure.

External Power Supplies
The DOE issued on 18 November 2015 a notice of proposed rulemaking to exempt certain types of external power supplies consistent with the EPS Service Parts Act of 2014. That proposal explained that the Act exempted from the energy conservation standards promulgated in a February 2014 final rule certain external power supplies made available by a manufacturer as a service or spare part. The proposal sought to codify this exemption and certain related reporting requirements. The DOE recently issued a final rule adopting that proposal along with related provisions to require manufacturers to annually report the total units of exempt external power supplies shipped as service and spare parts that fail to meet the appropriate energy conservation standards.

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