Home bills will require water heaters that respond to demand, and promote a weathering program

Diving Brief:

  • Bipartisan legislation in the US House of Representatives would authorize a national approach for residential water heaters to be used as sources in response to demand, in an effort to enhance the resilience and resilience of the electric grid. HR 7962 was submitted by Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mitch.
  • The bill would direct the US Department of Energy to consider requiring the manufacture of residential water heaters with hardware and software capabilities to adjust their energy use in response to incentive payments or changes in the price of electricity.
  • Water heater manufacturers support the bill, but at a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing Wednesday, some lawmakers and groups concerned about government overreach expressed privacy concerns in mandating the new capabilities.

Diving Insight:

Multiple states, including California and New York, have already issued measures to ensure that some water heaters are manufactured to be able to respond to demand. Manufacturers say they prefer a national standard over a “quagmire” of various compliance requirements.

“This requirement represents an opportunity to establish a national standard for a narrow product category for innovative water heating technology,” Joshua Green, vice president for government and industry affairs for water heater manufacturer AO Smith, told lawmakers.

Green also testified on behalf of the Institute of Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration, which represents manufacturers more broadly.

The bill would allow the Department of Energy to issue a final rule by December 31, 2024, requiring certain residential electric water heaters to be able to participate in utility demand response programs, if the Energy Secretary concludes that they are “technically feasible and economically justified.” The bill would also amend some definitions of commercial and residential water heaters, to reflect recent innovations.

“Technology and innovation in our industry have gone far beyond legal definitions of our products,” Green said. The bill for water heaters would “bring much-needed commercial certainty to manufacturers and their customers.”

Conservationists also support this procedure. There are more than 53 million electric water heaters in the United States, and each can function as a battery to shift loads, peak shave, or integrate renewable energy sources, according to the Regulatory Assistance Project.

Andrew Delasky, executive director of the Device Standards Awareness Project, told lawmakers that the proposed bill would “ensure a common communications protocol, facilitate the path to widespread demand and significant cost savings for consumers.” “A national requirement would prevent additional countries from setting their own requirements and promote consistent national markets.”

Republican lawmakers and consumer advocates have raised some concerns about new requirements for water heaters.

Rep. Fred Upton, D-Michi., described responding to the request as “a capability that allows a network operator to monitor and control residential devices remotely to reduce electricity demand,” and said a bill that mandates it “raises serious privacy concerns that I don’t” I don’t think would work well very much with consumers.”

It should not be mandated by the federal government. There are very real privacy issues here, Ben Lieberman, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said at the hearing. These should always be decisions made by the homeowner and never the government. It’s really that simple.”

The bill would not mandate participation in demand response programs, but would instead ensure that some units have these capabilities.

“Sure, we could save energy if utilities could turn the devices on and off. That’s not what consumers want,” Lieberman said.

Utility data from network-connected devices has been the subject of lawsuits in the past, although the courts have sided with the utilities. Customers who participate in demand response programs voluntarily allow utilities to adjust the power demand of their devices.

Lieberman also spoke out against HR 7947, the ” 2022 Weather Improvement and Preparedness Act,” which would expand the federal adaptation assistance program by increasing the limit states can spend processing individual homes from $6,000 to $12,000.

“I just don’t think we get much bang for the buck. The weathering program in particular is one in which economists and others have questioned whether the expenses exceed the benefits.” Most homeowners take reasonable steps themselves to prevent energy wastage, so the The marginal benefit of government programs is limited.”

The weathering bill would also increase funds available for basic home repairs, “which are essential to safe, efficient, and lasting weather improvements,” Delasky said. He told lawmakers that about 20% of households are currently unable to participate in the weathering program due to structural problems in their homes.

The reforms in this law are urgently needed to ensure that low-income families—many in rural areas, many people of color, many elderly people—that have a dire need of assistance can take full advantage of the weathering programme.”

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