The EU energy labels provide a clear and simple indication of the energy efficiency of products at the point of purchase. This makes it easier for consumers to save money on their household energy bills, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the EU.
The labels and standards will bring a yearly energy saving of around 150 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent) by 2020, roughly equivalent to the annual primary energy consumption of Italy.
For consumers, this means an average saving of up to €285 per year on their household energy bills. Moreover, energy efficiency measures will create €66 billion in extra revenue for European companies.
To make this possible, the EU has put in place regulations and directives, particularly for energy labelling and ecodesign for products.
First introduced for a number of household appliances in 1994 and subsequently expanded in 2004 – with a comparative scale from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient) - the concept has been a key driver for helping consumers choose products which are more energy efficient. At the same time, it also encourages manufacturers to drive innovation by using more energy efficient technologies.
The energy label is recognised by 93% of consumers and 79% consider it when they are buying energy efficient products, according to the Special Eurobarometer 492 carried out by the European Commission.
Manufacturers are keen to see their energy-labelled products in the highest available category when compared to competitors. For example, roughly two-thirds of refrigerators and washing machines sold in 2006 were labelled as class A, whereas over 90% of those sold in 2017 were labelled A+, A++ or A+++.
In addition to information about the product’s energy consumption, the labels can also provide specific data about other relevant features of usage such as the product’s noise emissions or water consumption.
A new generation of labels
As a result of the development of more and more energy efficient products, and because the difference between A++ and A+++ is less obvious to the consumer, the EU energy labels categories will be gradually adjusted to reintroduce the simpler A to G scale.
In concrete terms, this means that 5 product groups will be 'rescaled' in the course of 2021
- washing machines
- electronic displays including televisions
The top 4 product groups will be rescaled from 1 March 2021, whereas lamps will be rescaled from 1 September 2021. Other product groups carrying EU energy labels will follow in the coming years. It also means that from 1 November 2020, consumers buying a new fridge, dishwasher, washing machine or TV could find 2 different labels with their product – 1 reflecting the old label system (likely to be A+ or above), the other reflecting the rescaled system (no higher than B).
A product showing an A+++ energy efficiency class could for example become a class B after rescaling, without any change in its energy consumption.
The class A will initially be empty to leave room for more energy efficient models. This will enable consumers to distinguish more clearly between the most energy efficient products. At the same time, it is likely to encourage manufacturers to continue research and innovation into more energy efficient technologies. An article that focuses on and further explains the new generation of EU energy labels (in EN, FR, DE, IT, ES, PL) was published by the European Commission 13 August 2020.
The final format and visual identity of the new labels for the above product groups, and also for ‘refrigerating appliances with a direct sales function’, were adopted by the Commission on 11 March 2019.
The EU Member States will inform citizens about the changes the new EU energy labels will bring through dedicated communication campaigns, with the support of the European Commission. In addition, 2 Horizon 2020 funded projects LABEL2020 and Boost Energy Label Take up (BELT) will promote and support, a smooth market transition of the new energy labels.
A guidance note on the labels rescaling and transition periods is available at the attention of manufacturers and retailers.
In addition, from 1 January 2019, suppliers (manufacturers, importers or authorised representatives) have to upload information about their products into the European product database for energy labelling (EPREL) before placing these products on the European market. Consumers will be able to search the database for energy labels and product information sheets at the end of 2020.
Companies can also create their own labels for energy efficiency products using the energy label templates or the energy label generator.
There is world-wide demand for more efficient products to reduce the consumption of energy and other natural resources in line with improving overall sustainability. The EU legislation on ecodesign is an effective tool for improving the environmental performance of products by setting mandatory minimum standards for their energy efficiency. This eliminates the least performing products from the market, significantly contributing to the EU’s energy efficiency objective.
Ecodesign also supports industrial competitiveness and innovation by promoting better environmental performance of products throughout the internal market.
On 1 October 2019, ten measures were adopted by the Commission for the products listed below. These measures, agreed in consultation with the industry and with the support of Member States, was then approved by the European Parliament and the Council under the regulatory procedure with scrutiny. The product categories covered are
- washing machines and washer-driers
- electronic displays
- household refrigerators
- light sources
- refrigerators with a direct sales function
- external power supplies
- electric motors
- power transformers
- welding equipment
8 of these measures revise existing requirements, whereas refrigerators with a direct sales function and welding equipment are regulated for the first time.
An important change in the new ecodesign rules is the inclusion of elements to further enhance the reparability and recyclability of appliances. Several of the new measures include requirements, such as ensuring the availability of spare parts - making key parts more easily replaceable - and access to repair and maintenance information for professional repairers.