Proposed vending machine standards would save energy

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Vending machines for soda and other beverages would sip energy rather than guzzle it under new standards proposed by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The proposed rules set energy conservation standards and consumption thresholds for refrigerated vending machines that dispense bottled or canned drinks.

The measures would cut energy use of glass- or polymer-front machines by as much as 42 percent compared to current energy consumption of such machines.

Energy use in more traditional solid-front vending machines would be cut by about 15 percent.

"With roughly 3 million beverage vending machines in the U.S., or 1 for every 100 Americans, a strong national standard means real savings for all the universities, park districts, hotels, and other institutions and businesses that pay the electric bills for these machines," Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

Under the proposed standards, energy use per unit would be no more than about 1,400 kilowatt-hours to 1,800 kilowatt-hours per year, compared to highs of 3,000 kwh to 5,000 kwh in the mid 1990s, according to Horowitz, a leader in vending machine research.

Each machine manufactured under the new standards would save about $320 per year in energy costs, he said.

Over a 30-year period, the new standards could yield savings of as much as 10 billion kwh of electricity — about enough for 800,000 typical homes for a year, save vending machine property owners $250 million, and eliminate 5 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, according to the DOE's long-term projections. The 30-year estimate for CO2 reduction is roughly the equivalent of the CO2 emissions produced by a million cars during a year and has an estimated value of $96 million, the DOE said.

PepsiCo is testing an HFC-free, energy efficient vending machine.

A public hearing on the proposed standards is scheduled for June 17. After a review period and barring controversy, the rules are to be adopted in August with the standards taking effect three years later.

In ratcheting up the energy efficiency of beverage vending machines, the proposed standards build upon a number of improvements made in the past 10 years, Horowitz acknowledged.

But he and representatives of other organizations supporting stricter energy efficiency — American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project — also said that requiring smart controls on the vending machines would save more electricity and more money. Smart control devices could automate certain features of the equipment and, for example, put lights in sleep mode or turn them off when the machine is not in use.

However, the DOE's authority to set such a requirement is currently limited by parameters established by the previous administration. Standards adopted after July 1, 2010, are allowed to incorporate sleep mode provisions.

Vending machines are already ripe targets for energy savings in facilities.

At Wal-Mart, for example, an employee's idea to switch off soda machine lights saved about $1 million. At Intuit, installing automatic shut-off controls for vending machine lights was among the recommendations made by an Environmental Defense Fund Climate Corps fellow who spent the summer at the company devising energy efficiency strategies.

In the beverage industry, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are working to make their vending machines consume less energy and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

PepsiCo is testing new vending machines that are 15 percent more energy efficient than the company's 2008 models. Last year's models had cut energy use by 51 percent compared to 2003 models. The 2009 test models use carbon dioxide instead of hydrofluorocarbons as a refrigerant.

Coca-Cola has used alternatives to the refrigerant in some machines for several years. For the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, the 1,400 Coca-Cola coolers and vending machines will be HFC-free. The company plans to have 100,000 HFC-free vending machines and refrigerators — about 1 percent of its current inventory — around the world by 2010.

The proposed standards for beverage machines are the first of about 25 new standards for a variety of products that the DOE must complete by January 2012 as mandated by court orders or Congressional deadlines. Fluorescent lighting tubes used in commercial settings, home refrigerators, water heaters and air conditions are among the products subject to new standards.


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