Energy Efficiency

Co-ops Urge Water Heater Rule Change

By Cathy Cash | ECT Staff Writer Published: May 14th, 2013

Electric cooperatives are urging the Department of Energy to consider alternatives to a new rule that stands to phase out large-capacity electric storage water heaters that save energy and money for co-op members in demand response programs.

Electric co-ops urge DOE to consider alternatives to a new rule that stands to phase out large electric storage water heaters.(Photo By: Marathon Water Heaters)

Electric co-ops urge DOE to consider alternatives to a new rule that stands to phase out large electric storage water heaters.(Photo By: Marathon Water Heaters)

“Fairfield Electric Cooperative’s members have benefited from the cooperative’s demand management program with the reduction in millions of dollars in wholesale power costs,” William Hart, CEO of the Blythewood, S.C., co-op told the department in comments sent April 29. “In order to continue these savings and build the program, the availability of large capacity water heaters is essential.”

The department is offering a one-year waiver from the 2010 water heater efficiency standards that take effect in 2015. In comments to DOE, however, co-ops said the waiver would not protect the role the water heaters play in load management.

“If left unaltered and without a workable waiver process, the 2010 standard will put an end to water heaters being used in the demand response programs of many of our members,” Troy Bredenkamp, general manager of the Nebraska Rural Electric Association, said in comments to DOE.

DOE should develop a new classification for electric storage water heaters with tank capacity of more than 55 gallons, or adopt a waiver of at least five years from the final water heater standard, NREA and other co-ops told the department.

“Our association is very disappointed that DOE is proposing a waiver process for only one year at a time,” Bredenkamp said in comments to the department submitted on behalf of NREA’s 34 rural public power districts and electric co-ops. “We are further disappointed that DOE has yet to fully consider alternatives to the 2010 standard as proposed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association regarding this program.”

NRECA recommended that DOE create a separate appliance category for large “grid-enabled” electric storage water heaters, or adopt a waiver for at least five years with a three-year notice for any modifications or elimination of the waiver.

In submitting the comments, NRECA joined with the American Public Power Association, the Edison Electric Institute, PJM Interconnection and Steffes Corp. of Dickinson, N.D., which makes grid-interactive thermal storage technology for water heaters.

“Only a simple, long-term waiver can give the electric utility industry the certainty it needs to continue to invest in [demand response] and [electric thermal storage] and the manufacturing community the certainty it needs to continue to produce the water heaters needed for those successful programs,” NRECA and the industry groups said in their comments.

EarthJustice, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council are pressuring DOE to rethink its offer of any waiver for the water heaters.

James Hathaway, general manager and CEO of Dunn Energy Cooperative in Menomonie, Wis., however, told DOE that circumventing the large water heater standard through the waiver is unlikely.

“The high price of the larger water heaters is already sufficient to discourage consumers from buying them if they do not have a utility rebate or utility rate incentive available,” Hathaway said.

More than 2,000 members participate in Dunn Energy’s storage program by allowing their large water heaters to be turned off during periods of peak power demand.

“Our experience over 30 years has taught us that water heaters larger than 55 gallons are needed in order to prevent member-consumers from running out of hot water during control periods,” Hathaway said.

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