It’s been a tough year for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program. The voluntary energy efficiency labeling program for electronics, appliances and computers, among other categories, came under fire in March after an investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the program is vulnerable to fraud and abuse from companies which might make false claims on energy savings on the products and voluntary information they submit in order to get the Energy Star labeling.
The Energy Star program was subsequently beefed up, requiring at the end of the year for companies who want the Energy Star labeling to submit complete lab reports and results for review and approval by the EPA prior to a sign off. The more managed program still isn’t satisfying everyone, however, with Consumer Reports recently being critical of Energy Star for having too many products qualify for the label, reportedly rendering it virtually meaningless to consumers. Still, the program seems to be considered extremely valued by consumers, with a survey done around this time last year finding the labeling program was recognized enough by shoppers to have at least some influence on their buying habits.
We recently caught up with Maria Vargas, EPA brand manager of the Energy Star program, to see how things are going with Energy Star and what might be in the pipeline for the future. Note that this interview has been edited for length and clarity.
EarthTechling (ET): What is the single biggest benefit for consumers of Energy Star?
Maria Vargas: The nice thing is actually three simultaneous benefits. Energy Star is a offering a recognizable label people can find on over 60 different types of products. It designates in an easy way which items are most energy efficient products and it helps one save money while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.