Commercial refrigeration manufacturers, represented by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), and energy efficiency advocates, represented by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), reached an agreement on federal equipment efficiency standards for commercial refrigerators, freezers, and refrigerator freezers used in restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores and other commercial buildings, said ARI in a release.

The signatories are recommending a minimum efficiency standard for most self-contained refrigeration equipment and beverage coolers. The agreement also calls for legislation requiring that the U.S. Department of Energy establish efficiency standards for ice-cream freezers, self-contained cabinets without doors, and remote condensing products (solid door, transparent door and cabinets without doors).

The agreement was negotiated over the last 15 months and would avoid the need for two new 300 megawatt power plants if enacted, ARI said. It has been provided to both the U.S. Department of Energy and members of Congress. There are currently no federal minimum efficiency standards for this equipment.

“The agreement gives manufacturers regulatory certainty to develop new models for 2010 that will meet both the new efficiency standards and EPA regulations to phase-out the use of HCFC refrigerants that can deplete the ozone layer,” said William Sutton, president of ARI, in a statement.

ACEEE estimates that the initial standard set under this agreement would reduce U.S. electricity use by about 2.3 billion kWh annually by 2020. By reducing electricity use, the agreement would reduce emissions from power plants of air pollutants and compounds, such as carbon dioxide, that contribute to global warming. For example, the agreement would reduce power plant carbon dioxide emissions by 1.6 million metric tons in 2020, which is equivalent to taking about 300,000 average passenger vehicles off the road that year.