The EU energy labelling and ecodesign legislation helps improve the energy efficiency of products on the EU market.
Ecodesign sets common EU wide minimum standards to eliminate the least performing products from the market. The energy labels provide a clear and simple indication of the energy efficiency and other key features of products at the point of purchase. This makes it easier for consumers to save money on their household energy bills and contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the EU.
The EU legislation for energy labels and ecodesign has been estimated to bring energy savings of approximately 230 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) by 2030. 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.
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 EU energy label 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.
In 2019, the energy label was recognised by 93% of consumers and 79% considered it when buying energy efficient products, according to the Special Eurobarometer 492.
Manufacturers are keen to see their energy-labelled products in the highest available category when compared to competitors. Therefore, it is likely that manufacturers who sell appliances in the less efficient classes aim to improve their rating to position their products within the highest category. 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. For example, a product showing an A+++ energy efficiency class could become a class B or lower after rescaling without any change in its energy consumption. The class A will initially be empty to leave room for more energy efficient models to be developed.
This will enable consumers to distinguish more clearly between the most energy efficient products. At the same time, it is meant to encourage manufacturers to continue research and innovation into more energy efficient technologies. An article that further explains the new generation of EU energy labels was published on 16 February 2021.
The following 5 product groups were 'rescaled' in 2021. Other product groups carrying EU energy labels will follow in the coming years.
- Fridges and freezers
- Washing machines and washer-dryers
- Electronic displays including televisions
The final format and visual identity of the new labels for the above product groups and for ‘refrigerating appliances with a direct sales function’ were adopted by the Commission on 11 March 2019.
The EU countries, with the support of the European Commission, will inform citizens about the changes the new EU energy labels will bring through dedicated communication campaigns. 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.
Guidance for manufacturers and retailers
A guidance note on the labels rescaling and transition periods is available since June 2020.
In addition, from 1 January 2019, suppliers (manufacturers, importers or authorised representatives) have to upload information about their products into the European Product Registry for Energy Labelling (EPREL) before placing these products on the European market. Consumers have been able to search the database for energy labels and product information sheets as of March 2021 for the first rescaled product categories.
There is worldwide 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 and climate targets. Ecodesign also supports industrial competitiveness and innovation by promoting better environmental performance of products throughout the internal market.
On 1 October 2019, 10 measures were adopted by the Commission for the product categories listed below:
- 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.
Reparability and recyclability
An important change in the above-mentioned ecodesign rules, which started to fully apply in 2021, is the inclusion of elements to further enhance the reparability and recyclability of appliances.
Several of the new measures include requirements, such as making spare parts more easily replaceable, and ensuring that key parts and repair and maintenance information are available for end users and professional repairers as appropriate, for a minimum duration of 7-10 years depending on the product. The changed ecodesign rules for washing machines, dishwashers, fridges and freezers, and electronic displays took effect on 1 March 2021.
Ecodesign for sustainable products
On 30 March 2022, the Commission proposed a new Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation for more environmentally sustainable and circular products. It was published together with the Ecodesign and energy labelling working plan 2022-2024, which covers new energy-related products and updates and increases the ambition for products that are already regulated, as a transitionary measure until the new regulation enters into force.