Through the Clean Air Act, Congress directed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to demonstrate non-regulatory strategies to prevent air pollution—including energy efficiency and fuel-switching to cleaner fuel sources.
In accordance with this mandate (and others listed below), EPA administers the ENERGY STAR program. Through ENERGY STAR, EPA is able to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency and efficient electrification.
Federal Authority for ENERGY STAR
Clean Air Act (1970)
Section103(g) of the Clean Air Act directs EPA to "develop, evaluate, and demonstrate nonregulatory strategies and technologies for air pollution prevention… with opportunities for participation by [stakeholders]… including SOx, NOx… CO2… including end-use efficiency, and fuel-switching to cleaner fuels." (42 USC Section 7403g, PDF, 256 KB)
Energy Policy Act (2005)
Section 131 of the Energy Policy Act directs EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) to implement “a voluntary program to identify and promote energy–efficient products and buildings in order to reduce energy consumption, improve energy security, and reduce pollution through voluntary labeling of or other forms of communication about products and buildings that meet the highest energy efficiency standards.”
The Act further directs EPA and DOE to work jointly to:
- Promote ENERGY STAR compliant technologies as the preferred technologies in the marketplace for achieving energy efficiency and reducing pollution;
- Work to enhance public awareness of the ENERGY STAR label, including providing special outreach to small businesses;
- Preserve the integrity of the ENERGY STAR label;
- Regularly update ENERGY STAR product criteria for product categories and to solicit comments from interested parties prior to establishing/revising ENERGY STAR product categories, specifications, or criterion.
(42 USC Section 6294a, PDF, 220 KB)
Memorandum of Understanding with DOE (2009)
In 2009, EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that redefined roles and responsibilities to address implementation challenges and capitalize on the strengths of each agency. Prior to 2009, both EPA and DOE were implementing the program for different products, resulting in inconsistent approaches, duplicative efforts, and market confusion.
In response to a request from Congress, in 2022, EPA and DOE issued a report (PDF. 2.2 MB) concluding that realigning Agency roles for the ENERGY STAR products program has led to program improvements to the benefit of American consumers, ENERGY STAR partners, and the environment. The report further emphasizes improved coordination between EPA and DOE, including an integrated plan for each year that addresses test procedure (DOE) and specification (EPA) development efforts across all product categories. DOE and EPA have improved coordination on test procedure development planning so as to anticipate future technological innovation and have recently performed a review of data submittal requirements in an effort to streamline reporting requirements and reduce manufacturer burden. EPA and DOE remain committed to continuing to improve the ENERGY STAR program in response to industry and stakeholder feedback as well as improving coordination between the two agencies.
EPA is the ENERGY STAR brand manager and is accountable for maintaining the integrity of the label. For ENERGY STAR products, EPA is responsible for setting product performance levels, educating consumers and businesses, and supporting the efforts of manufacturers, retailers, and utilities. EPA also oversees third-party certification and verification testing. Across the more than 75 product categories, EPA has demonstrated accessibility and transparency in the implementation of the ENERGY STAR products program. EPA also is responsible for the ENERGY STAR Residential New Construction, Commercial, and Industrial programs, including ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager.
For ENERGY STAR products, DOE develops test procedures for ENERGY STAR products and contributes to verification testing of appliances and equipment. DOE also sets minimum, mandatory energy efficiency standards for some products through a regulatory process. EPA and DOE work closely to share data and analyses, synchronize timing, and coordinate requests to industry in the development of both the voluntary ENERGY STAR specifications and the DOE minimum efficiency standards.
Energy Efficiency Improvement Act (2015)
Section 17085 of the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 directs EPA to develop a recognition program for energy efficient tenant spaces under the ENERGY STAR program (42 USC Section 17085, PDF, 230 KB). Learn more about tenant recognition.