Energy and water efficiency standards for appliances, lighting products, and equipment have been established in Nevada since the 1980s. Standards set at the federal level preempt states from adopting their own specific standards. However, not all appliances, lighting products, and equipment have federal standards, thus providing a way for states to adopt their own policies that achieve a higher level of efficiency. 

In Nevada, minimum energy-efficiency standards for general service lamps (GSLs) were established through the passage of AB 54 during the 2019 legislative session. This legislation directed the Governor’s Office of Energy (GOE) to establish a minimum efficiency standard of 45 lumens per watt for GSLs and required the agency to adopt this standard through regulations. This includes, but is not limited to, general service incandescent lamps, compact fluorescent lamps, general service LED lamps, general service organic LED lamp,; and reflector lamps. Adoption of appliance energy-efficiency standards plus adoption of the lighting standards will save Nevadans an average of $476 annually on their utility bills. 

Efficiency Standards for Appliances & Lighting

According to the 2013 Better Appliances report from the Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP), between 1987 and 2010, real prices of refrigerators, clothes washers, and dishwashers decreased by 35%, 45%, and 30%, respectively, with an average decrease in energy use of more than 50%. And according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), appliance and equipment standards have served as one of the nation’s most-effective energy-efficiency policies since early enactment by California in 1974.

In 1975, the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) established a federal program to implement test procedures, energy targets, and labeling for consumer products. EPCA was amended in 1979 directing the DOE to establish energy conservation standards for consumer products.

As shown on DOE’s 2017 “Appliance Equipment Standards Fact Sheet,” efficiency gains from the DOE’s Standards Program has been remarkable, saving households an average of $321 per year on their energy bills.

Over the past decade specifically, appliance standards have become a topic of discussion nationally and recognized as a critical piece to combat climate change, reduce energy use, lower utility bills, and improve the overall comfort, health, safety and well-being of consumers’ residences and businesses. Governors in at least 16 states, including Nevada, have acknowledged these benefits by adopting more-efficient standards that will assist in achieving emissions-reduction goals and lowering utility bills for all.

According to the Pathways and Policies to Achieve Nevada’s Climate Goals report published by Evolved Energy, GridLab, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the Sierra Club, appliances must turn over so that about 45% of residential and 20–25% of commercial space and water heating is electric by 2030.


Appliance standards set minimum energy- and/or water-efficiency levels for specific residential and commercial products. These minimum standards are set to reduce the emissions from appliances in order to effectively achieve lower levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the life of the product.

The list of products to consider include: air compressors; air purifiers; commercial dishwashers, fryers, ovens, steam cookers, and hot-food holding cabinets; computers and computer monitors; electric vehicle supply equipment; faucets; high-CRI (color rendering index) fluorescent lamps; portable air conditioners and electric spas; residential ventilating fans; showerheads; toilets; uninterruptible power supplies; urinals; and water coolers. Increasing the efficiency of appliances in residences and commercial structures will lower GHG emissions, save consumers money, and contribute to the overall reduction goals as shown in Table 1. 

During the process of implementing Nevada’s lighting standards for GSLs, support from ASAP, the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), the U.S. Climate Alliance (USCA), and the California Energy Commission (CEC) quantified GHG reduction impacts of the standard. ASAP provided an avenue for Nevada to have access to vetted data with conclusions, policies implemented, and analyses completed to provide the support for implementing efficiency standards across the state. NASEO, CEC, and the USCA hosted working groups focused on the topic and provided resources and support to the GOE in the development of these standards. 

Table 1. Cost and GHG emissions savings associated with several appliances for Nevada.

Appliance productPotential Annual Electricity (GWh) Savings in 2025Potential Annual Electricity (GWh) Savings in 2035Potential Annual Utility Bill Savings ($ million) in 2025Potential Annual Utility Bill Savings ($ million) in 2035
Air Purifiers22.557.92.56.9
Computers & Computer Monitors4368.73.86.3
Commercial Dishwashers1.661.14.5

Source: ASAP

After analyzing the impact of appliance standards in other states, it is clear that adoption of state-specific standards in Nevada can achieve GHG emissions reductions. Federal regulations cover more than 55 products that are manufactured or imported for sale into the United States. This effectively preempts states from adopting stricter standards than what has already been established. 

The DOE is required to review and update standards to keep up with technology as it advances. State standards apply specifically to products sold or installed in the state, allowing adoption of standards that are common sense for each state, as not all are alike in factors such as climate zone, economics, and landscape. Since not all products are covered at the federal level, the effectiveness and feasibility of implementing standards for those omitted was analyzed. Resources from ASAP, ACEEE, and the states of California, Oregon, and Colorado were consulted and reviewed. ASAP analyzed appliance standards nationwide, specific to each state, with growing positive impacts by as early as 2025 and 2035 if adopted in 2021. The results show that adoption of appliance standards in Nevada will assist in reaching the state’s overall emissions-reduction goals as modeled in the ASAP Nevada-specific report.

Adoption of appliance standards is taking place in at least 16 states across the nation, including Nevada, Colorado, California, Oregon, and Washington. This is primarily due to the positive economic and societal benefits. This includes Nevada adopting minimum efficiency standards for GSLs under AB 54 and water-efficiency standards under AB 163

Another reason is because the Trump administration, in its attempt to roll back efficiency standards, is failing to perform the duties required under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, failing to update standards for 28 products and attempting to roll back other policies that have been proven to benefit the most-vulnerable communities. 

Nevada is one of many states pursuing higher-efficiency appliances in order to reach the ultimate reduction goal of zero or near-zero emissions by 2050.

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During the Green Building listening session conducted in association with the development of the State Climate Strategy, Nevadans expressed support of improved efficiency in homes and businesses, particularly in vulnerable communities. Comments submitted by stakeholders highlight the naturally long lifespans of appliances, which shows the need to address carbon-reducing policies in the built environment today.

Appliance standards positively impact those in the low-income, Indigenous, and otherwise financially negatively-impacted communities by lowering utility bills. Such standards also ensure healthier environments and indoor air quality while promoting longer-lasting products that improve quality of life and having less of a financial burden on each citizen over time. More-efficient appliances can have a higher upfront cost, which is typically made back over time through savings via reduced energy costs to operate the appliance. Over time, these upfront appliance costs decline as technology matures and adoption scales.

Supporting these standards will lower consumers’ utility bills an average of $476 per year, emit less harmful pollutants into the air that further exacerbate pre-existing lung and other health conditions, and provide long-term financial benefits as mentioned during the listening session.

The 2017 ASAP/ACEEE report Energy-Savings States of America: How Every State Benefits from National Appliance Standards estimates that existing consumers and businesses saved $80 billion on utility bills from existing standards in 2015. Savings will grow to nearly $150 billion by 2030. The economic value of existing standards can also be expressed on a cumulative basis, counting both costs and benefits. Accounting for products sold between 1987 and 2035 and for estimated product price increases, total net present value savings from national standards is $2.4 trillion for U.S. consumers and businesses.

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The consideration and implementation of rulemaking around appliance efficiency standards requires coordination between the GOE and the Nevada Legislature, in consultation with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) and the Attorney General’s (AG’s) office. Currently, the GOE does not administer an appliance standard program and with the budgeted staff, additional resources would be necessary to implement and administer an appliance implementation and compliance program statewide. Appliance standards have been adopted in at least 16 states and the staffing and fiscal impacts to each can vary depending on the overall authority and enforcement provided to the department. 

Investment by the state is necessary to adopt and implement appliance efficiency standards. Some states like Colorado have implemented these standards with existing staff. Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE) publishes the standards and the Attorney General is authorized to bring civil action against anyone violating the law, according to the fiscal note published during consideration of HB 19-1231. Both departments can handle the additional workload without expanding resources.

Additional research is needed to determine the full fiscal impact of appliance standards on Nevada’s state and local government.

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Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) Chapter 701 grants GOE broad authority for adoption of energy policies in this state.

The GOE director has the authority to adopt any regulations that the director determines necessary to carry out the GOE’s duties pursuant to NRS 701. Given this broad authority, GOE could likely adopt appliance energy-efficiency standards and create a timeline for properties to update their appliances from less-efficient to the most-current technologies that provide a higher level of efficiency. This approach appears to be in line with the statement in NRS 701.010 that “the State has a responsibility to encourage the utilization of a wide range of measures which reduce wasteful uses of energy sources.” 

Although State legal authority appears to exist for implementing such a policy, federal preemption under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) would likely present difficulties. 

The EPCA expressly preempts states and municipalities from creating their own minimum energy- and water-efficiency standards for certain appliances and equipment. If a certain product is subject to a federal standard under EPCA, states may not prescribe a different efficiency standard for that same product. A minimum federal energy-efficiency standard would preclude not only state energy standards, but also water standards, and vice versa (Peter J. Ross, Appliance & Equipment Efficiency Standards: A Roadmap For State & Local Action 1-2 (2017); 42 U.S.C. § 6297(b)).

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has primary responsibility for federal energy-efficiency standards (42 U.S.C. §§ 6202(1), 6295).

EPCA provides several exceptions from its preemption clause. First, states may implement procurement standards that are more stringent than corresponding federal energy conservation standards (42 U.S.C. § 6297(e)). Under this provision, Nevada could revise its procurement laws to require purchasing products that exceed federal energy-efficiency standards. To do so, the legislature may need to amend NRS 333.4611 (purchasing devices that use electricity, natural gas, propane, or oil). We did not have time to thoroughly examine Nevada’s state purchasing laws.

Second, states may petition DOE for a waiver to develop their own energy-efficiency standards for certain products (42 U.S.C. § 6297(d)). In order to obtain a waiver, a state must show its regulations are needed “to meet unusual and compelling State or local energy or water interests,” which are “substantially different in nature or magnitude than those prevailing in the United States generally” (42 U.S.C. § 6297(d)(1)(B) & (C)). In addition, the state regulations must be preferable to alternative approaches to energy savings, including reliance on reasonably predictable market-induced improvements in efficiency. Nevada’s ability to secure a waiver under this provision is highly uncertain and may create litigation risk. 

Third, states and municipalities may indirectly encourage the adoption of high-efficiency appliances through building codes for new construction (Ross, supra, at 21). EPCA does not preempt state or local building codes for new construction concerning the energy efficiency or energy use of a covered product as long as the codes meet certain statutory requirements (42 U.S.C. § 6297(f)(3)). Among other things, the codes may not “require that the covered product have an energy efficiency exceeding the applicable [federal] energy conservation standard” without a waiver (42 U.S.C. § 6297(f)(3)(B)). The codes also must grant credits on the basis of how much each building option reduces energy use or cost, without favoring particular products or methods (Ross, supra, at 21 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 6297(f)(3)(C))).

This exception may allow Nevada to create a timeline for residential and commercial properties to update appliances from less-efficient technologies to the most-current technologies that provide a higher level of efficiency. It would be safest to require use of products that meet, but do not exceed, the federal minimum standards. See Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Inst. v. City of Albuquerque, 2008 WL 5586316, at *2 (D.N.M. 2008). EPCA preempted ordinance that prescribed standards for individual components of building that exceeded the federal minimum standards (Ross, supra, at 22). For Nevada legal authority to adopt building codes, see the policy on Energy Codes for Net-Zero Buildings

There is, however, the possibility that a court may find that EPCA preempts a state or local building code. See Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Inst, 2008 WL 5586316, at *2; Ross, supra, at 21-22; Josh Zaharoff, The Efficiency of Energy Efficiency: Improving Preemption of Local Energy Conservation Programs, 37 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 783, 811-18 (2013) (noting conflicting court decisions, both upholding and striking down, state and municipal building codes under EPCA’s preemption provision). 

Fourth, Nevada and California may adopt energy-efficiency standards for general service lamps in accordance with 42 U.S.C. § 6295(i)(6)(A)(vi). Nevada’s new energy-efficiency standards for general service lamps, required by AB 54 (2019) and NRS 701.260, appear to fall within this exception. 

In addition, states may pass energy-efficiency laws for new consumer appliances and industrial equipment that are not covered by federal law (Ross, supra, at 22). For example, despite 42% of U.S. homes having at least one desktop computer and 64% having at least one laptop computer, no national standards exist for computer products. The California Energy Commission adopted standards for computers and computer monitors in December 2016 (20 Cal. Code Reg. § 1605.3(v))

New legislation is probably necessary to adopt energy-efficiency standards for appliances not covered by federal law. Nevada’s practice has been to enact special purpose legislation to authorize energy-efficiency regulations, such as NRS 701.220 (energy conservation in buildings) and NRS 701.260 (energy-efficiency standards for general service lamps).

In sum, even in light of the above stated preemption difficulties, Nevada may be able to implement parts of this policy using exceptions in the EPCA (e.g., state procurement standards, building codes, and energy-efficiency standards for products not covered by EPCA). New and amended legislation and regulations would be needed.

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