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EU boosts energy performance of domestic electrical goods

28/07/2011

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The EU has set new rules to improve energy use in TVs and white goods. This includes revised labelling with additional top ratings. However, these changes have met a mixed response.

Agreement was reached on new rules to improve the energy performance of several products at the EU Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Regulatory Committee meeting on 31 March 2009. The package sets mandatory energy performance requirements and creates an upgraded energy labelling system for televisions and 'white goods' that include fridges, freezers, washing machines and dishwashers.

These new measures are expected to cut the EU's electricity consumption by 51 terawatt hours (TWh) by 2020. This is equivalent to the combined annual electricity consumption of Portugal and Latvia.

The EU A to G Energy Label system for domestic electrical appliances has been a thorough success since its introduction in early 1990s. However, the introduction of this labelling system has meant that now almost all of the products on the market fall into the ‘A’ class as manufacturers have sought to improve their products. The revision is intended to lead to even higher levels of energy efficiency.

Rather than implementing a completely new system, the agreed layout will be based on the existing A to G classification. The major difference is the ratings will now ‘go beyond A’, meaning that an additional set of marks will be added at the top of the scale. The new system introduces more precise ‘A-20%’ and ‘A-40%’ ratings to replace the current A+ and A++ categories. These new ranks are designed to denote products that consume 20% or 40% less energy than an existing ‘A’ class product.

In addition, refrigerators and freezers with B and C ratings will be taken off the market by July 2010, with those in the A class following in 2012. Washing machines with lower ratings will also be phased out in 2010, with those in the A class going in 2013.

Criticism of proposals

The final labelling policy was welcomed by the European Committee of Domestic Equipment Manufactures (CECED), which described it as a “winning solution for all parties”.

However, environmental and consumer NGOs such as the European Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation (ANEC), The European Consumers’ Organisation (BEUC), European Environmental Citizens Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS), European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Friends of the Earth Europe, Inforse-Europe and Natuur en Milieu are less enthusiastic. They feel the new labels are too confusing, a point demonstrated by surveys in six European countries by the British, Dutch and Swedish governments. Environmental groups suggested that the originally proposed rescaling would have resulted in emission reductions of 30 million tonnes of CO2 a year, 50% higher than is expected through the new system.

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