Co-ops Win on Water Heater Limits

Co-ops prevail as the International Code Council rejects water heater restrictions at the urging of NRECA (Photo by: Water Heater Innovations)

Co-ops prevail as the International Code Council rejects water heater restrictions at the urging of NRECA (Photo by: Water Heater Innovations)

By Cathy Cash; ECT Staff Writer; Published October 14, 2013

In a victory for electric cooperatives, an industrial standards organization rejected water heater restrictions that could have cost co-op members millions of dollars.

The International Code Council voted down water heater limits recommended by the Natural Resources Defense Council at its code hearing in early October.

NRECA had warned that the proposal could harm utility demand response, load management and energy storage programs.

As a result, the change will not be included in the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code, which is up for revision every three years. The next code revision process will be for 2018.

“This victory represents an understanding of the building code community that these water heaters can contribute significantly to the overall efficiency of the nation’s power grid in addition to providing affordable hot water to consumers,” said Keith Dennis, NRECA senior principal for end-use solutions and standards.

More than 250 electric co-ops in 33 states have long used electric resistance water heaters to lower system peaks, store wind and hydro energy during the night, and enhance grid efficiency. At least a half-a-million electric resistance water heaters are controlled under co-op programs.

Dennis told the council that adoption of the NRDC proposal would effectively eliminate these programs.

“These water heater programs have saved co-op members hundreds of millions of dollars and eliminated the need to build new electric generation,” Dennis said.

The proposal would have increased the cost of electric water heaters for new homes and undermined negotiations to ensure that water heater-based demand response and energy storage programs remain viable as appliance efficiency standards, he said.

DOE initially drafted the proposal in 2012 to restrict water heaters but dropped it after receiving comments from more than 200 co-ops on the proposal’s unintended consequences. The NRDC, however, this year submitted the proposal on its own behalf to the council.

The plan would have limited water heaters for new construction to a heat pump water heater, a solar water heating system, an instantaneous water heater or a storage gas water heater with a specific energy rating.

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Water Heater Standards Challenged

Horry Electric Comments Submitted to the DOE: Horry Electric was one of 20 electric cooperatives represented at the DOE hearing on March 15. These comments were presented in summary form.

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