The Commission proposal to include energy-related products as well as energy-using products in the European Ecodesign Directive has received the backing of the European Parliament.
The European Parliament approved the extension of the EU Product Ecodesign Directive to include energy-related products (ERPs) in April 2009. This move will increase the scope of the Directive to cover products such as windows and water-using devices. This legislation will enable the European Commission to introduce standards for any product it views as having a direct or indirect impact on energy consumption.
Previously, the Directive had only addressed the ecodesign requirements of energy-using products (EUPs).
The existing 2005 Directive established a framework for setting ecodesign requirements for EUPs. While not fixing binding requirements for specific products, it did define the conditions and criteria for the setting of such standards. By doing so, the Directive instituted a set of consistent EU-wide rules intended to improve the environmental performance of EUPs. To this end, only EUPs which used, generated, transferred, or measured energy were addressed by the Directive.
In July 2008, as part of the Sustainable Consumption and Production Action Plan, the Commission proposed to include a wider range of products in order to cover all ERPs. Under the new focus of the Directive, a wide variety of ERPs will be subject to energy-performance standards. Products such as windows, construction products, insulation materials, detergents, and water-using products will all now have to meet energy requirements.
Such a move will result in significant energy savings. For example, an increase in the share of double-glazed replacement windows of just 30% would result in energy savings of 55 000 GWh – equivalent to 27 tonnes of CO2 , or the power produced by two to three nuclear power plants – by 2020. Furthermore, water-saving taps and shower heads can reduce water consumption and therefore the energy used for heating water.
The European Commission is hoping to co-operate with industry on this matter, as it believes ambitious voluntary agreements may be an alternative to regulation. Equally, it has stated that minimum ecodesign requirements can be complemented by voluntary benchmarks, such as those relating to the mercury content of mercury-containing lamps.
The key principles of the Directive will remain unchanged in order to protect its ongoing implementation.
In 2011, the Commission will present the Second Working Plan of the Ecodesign Directive; while the First Working Plan, published on 21 October 2008, will be valid for the period 2009 to 2011.
In addition, the Commission will review the effectiveness of the Ecodesign Directive in 2012. This assessment will indicate whether the scope of the Directive should include non-energy-related products.