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New Rules for External Power Supplies, Battery Chargers

October 2014

There is an acceleration of regulatory activity that should be of interest to marketers of battery chargers and external power supplies (EPS).

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) undertook rulemaking for efficiency standards for battery chargers and  EPSs.  In February 2014, DOE issued new efficiency rules for EPSs and deferred action on battery chargers.  79 Fed. Reg. 7,846 (Feb. 10, 2014).  Now, DOE is proposing to amend the test procedure for EPSs and is welcoming comments.  Id. 60,996 (Oct. 9, 2014).  In the meantime, Congress likely will be moving forward with measures that would exempt certain service parts and spare parts from the new EPS rule.  And, DOE continues to consider potential efficiency rules for battery chargers.

DOE Proposal to Amend Test Procedure for EPSs.

DOE is proposing several changes to its test procedure for EPSs.  http://energy.gov/eere/buildings/ downloads/2014-10-02-issuance-energy-conservation-program-test-procedures-external.  Comments are due by December 8, 2014; DOE will hold a public meeting if one is requested by October 24, 2014.  The proposal would:

  • Harmonize DOE's test procedure with the latest version of Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 62301 by providing specific resolution and measurement tolerances.
  • Define and clarify how to test adaptive EPSs.
  • Add test configurations that can be used to avoid potential losses caused by testing cables.
  • Provide an alternative method to determine average active-mode efficiency in certain circumstances.
  • Add an optional procedure for measuring the active-mode efficiency of a unit under test that would occur at the 10 percent loading condition.
  • Add a provision to permit the optional recording of power factor during testing.
  • Add language to clarify which standards apply to each type of EPS.
  • Expand the scope of DOE's sampling plan for Class A EPSs to apply to those that will be subject to standards for the first time in 2016.

Bills for EPS Service Parts and Spare Parts.

On September 11, 2014, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5057, the EPS Service Parts Act of 2014, to exempt various EPSs from the standards in the February 2014  DOE rule.  It was co-sponsored by Representatives Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Paul Tonko (D-NY).  The intent is to extend an initial statutory exemption that DOE did not consider authorized for the subsequent DOE EPS rule.  The bill was referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on September 15, 2014.  A companion bill, S. 2791, co-sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Rob Portman (R–Ohio), was introduced on September 10, 2014 and has also been referred to the Senate Committee.

The issue stems from the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA).  EISA established efficiency standards for Class A EPSs.  It also provided an exemption for certain service parts and spare parts.  A Class A EPS is not subject to the statutory standard if it was manufactured during July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2015 and was made available by the manufacturer as a service part or a spare part for an end-use product that (i) constitutes the primary load and (ii) was manufactured before July 1, 2008.  EISA was deemed to have prevented DOE from extending this exemption in its February 2014 rule on EPS standards.  The bill is to provide explicit authority to DOE to create a similar exemption when DOE updated its EPS efficiency standards.

Under the bill, an EPS will not be subject to DOE's February 2014 rule for EPSs if it (i) is manufactured during February 10, 2016 through February 10, 2020; (ii) is marked in accordance with the EPS International Efficiency Marking Protocol; (iii) meets specified standards in the Energy Policy and Conservation Act for Class A EPSs and has been certified to DOE as meeting the Protocol's International Efficiency Level IV or higher; and (iv) is made available by the manufacturer as a service part or spare part for an end-use product that (a) constitutes the primary load, and (b) was manufactured before February 10, 2016.  DOE could limit the exemption if it is resulting in a significant reduction in energy savings.  In specified circumstances, DOE also can exempt an EPS from any amended EPS standard if the EPS is a service part or spare part.

DOE Battery Charger Rulemaking.

DOE continues to consider potential  efficiency rules for battery chargers.  It has asked for comments on a number of issues.  79 Fed. Reg. 27,774 (May 15, 2014).  These include the following:

  • Whether revisions to DOE's analysis are needed now that California standards for battery charger systems have been in effect for one year.
  • Application of the test procedure to multi-voltage, multi-capacity and multi-voltage, multi-capacity, multi-chemistry battery chargers that are capable of being tested with multiple battery configurations.
  • How is the test procedure being applied to applications that are equipped with both an integral battery charger and batteries that are solely used when main power is lost (i.e., back-up batteries)?
  • Can the current test procedure be applied to wireless battery chargers (i.e., inductive chargers) that are designed for dry environments to ensure accurate and repeatable results?
  • What types of wireless battery charger technologies are currently available or may become available in the future, and how are manufacturers applying (or would apply) the test procedure to these products?
  • How are adaptive (or smart) EPSs being rated (and advertised) according to the applicable standards for voltage and current reporting?
  • How should the test procedure be applied to battery charging systems with adaptive EPSs?