The U.S. Department of Energy held a public meeting March 15 on its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to establish a waiver process to allow the manufacture and sale of larger volume residential electric storage water heaters (i.e. volume larger than 55 gallons) after April 16, 2015. This NOPR was issued in response to concerns that the amended minimum efficiency standard for residential electric storage water heaters, which goes into effect in April 2015, will eliminate the availability of the large volume electric storage water heaters that are used in electric thermal storage programs, which allow the water heaters to operate only during off-peak periods and often supply electricity generated by renewable energy sources.

A large number of co-operative electric utilities were represented at the meeting and expressed support for the concept of the waiver, but objected to the conditions that DOE proposed for obtaining a waiver. Some utilities also objected to DOE’s decision not to establish a separate product class for electric water heaters used in off-peak programs. AHRI staff presented no official position on the NOPR, but did note that DOE’s efficiency standards apply to manufacturers of covered products, and questioned how a waiver from a regulation could be granted solely to a utility when that entity is not subject to the regulation. Based on the discussion that occurred at the meeting, it seems likely that DOE will have to revise this NOPR significantly before the rulemaking is completed.

Comments on the NOPR must be submitted by April 29. Subsequent developments on this issue will likely occur several months after that deadline.