This April, 20 ALA members and staff descended upon Washington, D.C., for the association’s annual fly-in. The fly-in provides ALA with the opportunity to meet directly with Members of Congress, their staffs, and other key government officials to discuss the interests and issues affecting the lighting industry. Over the course of the two-day event, the scheduled meetings and conversations focused on tariffs and energy efficiency.
Section 301 Tariffs
Driving much of the discussion was the negative impact tariffs have on the lighting industry, and ultimately, consumers. The Section 301 tariffs imposed on products coming from China include the vast majority of lighting products sold by retailers. As industry professionals know, these tariffs come at a time when the retail business is already experiencing its greatest shift ever in terms of competition. While brick-and-mortar stores are implementing various sales tactics to stay competitive with online rivals, these tariffs further complicate their ability to survive and thrive.
Lighting retailers are not the only segment of the industry hurt by tariffs. Manufacturers are implementing hiring freezes and curbing domestic R&D in response to the crippling tariffs placed on their products. Additionally, the tariffs have led to price increases, which trickle down to impact the American consumer. The increased costs on everyday, essential products, such as groceries, school supplies, children’s clothing and other home items, have severely limited the buying power of American consumers. Despite a strong economy, families have been forced to prioritize their spending, leaving lighting products in the dark.
During the meetings in D.C., members highlighted these challenges, explaining that ALA has always opposed any trade action that would negatively impact the market for lighting, ceiling fan and control products; however, ALA does recognize the need to address the trade imbalance with China and protect U.S. intellectual property. ALA believes Congress is best suited to tackle these issues and to pass legislation repealing Section 301 tariffs.
Another primary topic of discussion during the meetings in D.C. was that of energy efficiency as it relates to regulatory modernization. It is no surprise that the advent of the LED has paved the way for ALA members to become leaders on energy efficiency. Legislation, standards and government mandated regulations play a big part in determining which lighting products come to market, which is why the lighting industry, if it is to continue to lead on this matter, needs the help of its government partners.
"This year's event was an overwhelming success, thanks to the active participation of our dedicated members. This year, we had an aggressive agenda of meetings, solid discussion topics and a great opportunity to meet with the assistant secretary who oversees the appliance office at DOE. All of this helps ALA members affect change on the important issues that impact the lighting industry." - Michael Weems, ALA vice president, government engagement
The federal law that dictates efficiency rulemakings is the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA). Fly-in participants explained during meetings that the 40-year-old law is outdated and in desperate need of modernization.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is responsible for enacting the requirements set forth in the EPCA. Currently, DOE is engaged in several regulatory activities, which include a proposed rule to determine the definition of a general service lamp, a proposed rule that seeks to codify DOE’s internal process rule for conducting rulemakings, and a request for information on how DOE measures the average use cycle for products under regulatory review.
ALA members drove home the point that these and other government regulations go on in perpetuity. In the case of most appliance products, this is very problematic, especially for products that have reached their maximum efficiency potential. To help convey the impact of government regulations on consumers, members shared research data which shows that continually regulating products creates confusion in the marketplace, decreases consumer adoption and reduces or eliminates any potential gains in energy savings. ALA urged Congressional leaders to take up legislation that supports energy efficiency, modernizes EPCA and streamlines the rulemaking process at DOE.
In addition to meetings on Capitol Hill, the group also received a briefing on tariffs from Kris Denzel, a senior director with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and had a concluding lunch with Daniel Simmons, assistant secretary in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at DOE.
To learn more about ALA’s recent government engagement efforts, visit ALAMembers.com/Government-Engagement.