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New energy labels proposed for EU household products


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The Commission has proposed the first-ever energy label for TVs and updated labelling for refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers and washing machines to reflect technical improvements.

Labelling help consumers choose household products that save energy – and therefore money – while providing industry with incentives to develop and invest in energy-efficient product design.

TVs represent a tenth of the average household electricity bill and this will be the first time manufacturers have to display their energy efficiency using an A-to-G scale pioneered for white goods a decade ago. If the proposals are adopted in 2011 after getting the go-ahead from EU Member States and the European Parliament, TV labelling will start in 2012, with new efficiency classes A+, A++ and A+++ added in 2014, 2017 and 2020 respectively. Manufacturers could voluntarily use these classes earlier if their products comply, but the Commission believes industry will start with an average rating of ‘C’.

The TV proposal comes after MEPs rejected a previous idea in 2009 that would have used a different format to identify top-performing products, namely ‘A-20%’ for example, to indicate a product that is 20% more efficient than an ‘A’ product. MEPs and consumer groups felt this would confuse customers.

For refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers and washing machines, the problem has been that existing labels are out of date. Around 90% of such appliances sold in the EU today are class ‘A’ as a result of technological improvements triggered by labelling. Yet new technologies exist that could halve energy consumption of a class A product. New A+, A++ and A+++ categories are therefore being introduced for these products. A+++ is close to the limit of what is technologically possible today.

Actual savings depend on the product. An A+++ refrigerator will on average consume 60% less electricity than an A-class refrigerator, while the saving for a dishwasher or washing machine will be about half that.

Together, the household products covered by the proposals account for a third of households electricity bills and so represent a significant potential energy saving if approved and implemented.

White-goods industry association CECED has repeatedly argued however that supply-side improvements are only half the answer to greater European energy savings; financial incentives are needed to encourage consumers to buy these more efficient products. Their higher upfront cost can put people off even if they are told they can cut energy bills over the long-term, it says.

Energy labels, like eco-design requirements, are mandatory for EU products. In contrast, eco-labels are voluntary markers of the most environmentally friendly products in a sector.

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