For the first time since 2005, New Jersey is moving to establish minimum energy- and water-efficiency standards for a wide range of household appliances and commercial products.
The legislation (S-3324), approved Thursday by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee in a four-to-one vote, is designed to align with other steps by the Murphy administration to reduce energy use and conserve water by requiring more efficient toilets, faucets and showerheads.
In the long run, the more efficient appliances are expected to save consumers money by reducing water and energy bills. They will also reduce emissions contributing to climate change and improve air quality, particularly in low-income communities, which already are disproportionately affected by pollution, advocates said.
“Not only will these standards help both homeowners and the state to conserve water, but this bill will ensure consumers will save money through remaining efficient,’’ said Sen. Bob Smith, chair of the committee and the sponsor of the bill. Smith (D-Middlesex) also said the new standards would reduce the state’s carbon footprint.
The bill, if implemented, could also help New Jersey utilities comply with a 2018 law that mandates their customers reduce electric use by at least 2% annually and gas customers by 0.75% annually. Reducing energy use is a key component of the administration’s plan to achieve 100% clean energy by mid-century.
The bill is modeled after energy- and water-efficiency standards based on various sources, including the Energy Star program, which helps define energy-efficient appliances, and other standards developed and adopted by the California Energy Commission.
For and against
A broad range of environmental groups and clean-energy advocates praised the bill, with some calling it long overdue and an important way to reduce energy bills at a time when more than a million customers are having difficulties paying bills.
“At this moment in time, every amount customers can save on their energy bill is really important,’’ said Eric Miller, an analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
But some manufacturers and other business representatives argued the bill could take some household products off the consumer market. Jacob Cassidy, director of governmental affairs for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, told the committee that up to 60% of air purifiers would no longer be available to consumers if the bill passes.
Others questioned how successful the new standards would be in cutting energy use. Katie Reilly, representing the Consumer Technology Association, argued the new standards for computers and computer monitors would not “exactly move the needle’’ on energy efficiency improvements since those products already conform to the California standards.
“Setting minimum efficiency standards will help reduce our electric and water bills,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This bill includes a lot of commercial kitchen appliances like dishwaters, hot food cabinets and stoves. This will go a long way in making restaurants and bakeries more efficient.’’
By 2026, the new efficiency standards could save consumers up to $130 million a year, according to advocates. An identical Assembly bill cleared a committee in February by a five-to-three vote.