Energy labels and ecodesigns in the EU: new rules

To help EU consumers cut their energy bills and carbon footprint, a new version of the widely-recognised EU energy label will be applicable in all shops and online retailers from March 2021. The new labels will initially apply to four product categories – fridges and freezers, dishwashers, washing machines, and television sets (as well as other external monitors). New labels for light bulbs and lamps with fixed light sources will follow in September, and for other products labels will be available in the coming years.

 

The EU energy labels’ use have been widely recognised for more than 25 years in household products, such as light bulbs, television sets and/or washing machines helping consumers make informed choices.

Energy-saving labels

Since 2014, during 5-year efforts, the Commission initiated a range of changes to the Union’s energy policy to face the challenge of global energy transformations. Having helped to negotiate the Paris Agreement in December 2015, many of the subsequent policy changes have been aimed at enabling the EU to deliver on its Paris Agreement commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and more broadly on accelerating the clean energy transition.

In particular, the “clean energy for all Europeans” package established a new rulebook for EU energy policy, which includes new binding-2030 targets for energy efficiency and renewables and requires each EU country to establish its own integrated national energy and climate plan for 2021-2030, outlining how it intends to fulfill its contributions to the EU-wide effort.

 

According to the Eurobarometer-2019 survey, about 93 percent of consumers confirmed that they recognised the energy-saving label and 79 percent confirmed that it had influenced their product buying decisions. Together with harmonised minimum performance requirements, so-called “ecodesign”, the EU energy labeling rules are estimated to cut consumer expenditure by tens of billions of euros every year, whilst generating multiple other benefits for the environment and for manufacturers and retailers.

 

Note: The main survey’s points were the following: – EU energy policy is to moving away from fossil fuels, decreasing consumption and lowering energy prices; – the member states shall focus on ensuring access to secure, clean and affordable energy; – further states’ cooperation is essential to ensure a secure energy supply; – access to clean and affordable energy requires substantial in research and technology; – the EU energy labeling can influence consumers’ preferences; and  – the EU should prioritise clean and more affordable energy in the future. Reference: https://ec.europa.eu/energy/data-analysis/eurobarometer-energy_en?redir=1

 

Rescaled labels

The new categories for the rescaled label were agreed after a rigorous and fully transparent consultation process, with the close involvement of stakeholders and the EU member states at all stages, scrutiny by the Council and the European Parliament and with sufficient involvement of producers and notice provided to manufacturers. As required by the framework regulation, other product groups will be “rescaled” in the coming years: i.e. including tumble dryers, local space heaters, air conditioners, cooking appliances, ventilation units, professional refrigeration cabinets, space and water heaters, and solid fuel boilers.

The switch to the rescaled labels coincides with the entry into force of two horizontal (“omnibus”) regulations recently adopted to correct or clarify a range of issues identified in the concerned energy labeling and ecodesign regulations as originally adopted in 2019.

 

Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, acknowledged that the original energy label has been very successful, saving an average household in Europe several hundred euros per year and motivating companies to invest into research and development. Until the end of February 2021, over 90 percent of products were labeled either A+, A++ or A+++ signs.

She added that the new system would make it easier and clearer for consumers, while ensuring that businesses would continue to innovate and offer even more efficient products. At the same time, the energy labels will help the states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

Source: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_818

 

Changes introduced

With more and more products achieving ratings as A+, A++ or A+++ products, according to the current scale, the most important change is to return to a simpler A-G scale. This scale is stricter and designed so that very few products are initially able to achieve the “A” rating, leaving space for more efficient products to be included in the future. The most energy efficient products currently on the market will typically now be labeled as “B”, “C” or “D”.

A number of new elements will be included on the labels, including a QR link to an EU-wide database, which will allow consumers to find more details about the product. A number of ecodesign rules are also coming into force this March: notably on reparability and the need for manufacturers to keep spare parts available for a number of years after products are no longer on the market (see more below).

 

As well as rescaling the products’ energy efficiency, the layout of the new label is different, with clearer and more modern icons. Like the previous labels, the rescaled labels show more than just the energy efficiency class. For a washing machine, for example, they show at a glance the number of water liters per cycle, the duration of a cycle, and the energy consumption, as measured for a standardised program.

 

Further significant change is the introduction of a QR code on the top right of the new labels. By scanning the QR-code, consumers can find additional information about the product model, such as data relating to the dimensions, specific features or test results depending on the appliance.

All appliances on the EU market have to be registered in a new EU-wide database: European Product Registry for Energy Labels, EPREL, which will further facilitate the comparison of similar products.

 

Note: Commission Regulation 2021/341 of 23 February 2021on “Ecodesign requirements for servers and data storage products, electric motors and variable speed drives, refrigerating appliances, light sources and separate control gears, electronic displays, household dishwashers, household washing machines and household washer-dryers and refrigerating appliances with a direct sales function” can be seen in:

https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv%3AOJ.L_.2021.068.01.0108.01.ENG&toc=OJ%3AL%3A2021%3A068%3ATOC

 

New ecodesign rules

In addition to the new energy labeling rules, there are corresponding new regulations on ecodesign that take effect n March 2021. These rules relate specifically to the updated minimum efficiency requirements and reinforce consumer rights to repair products and support the circular economy.

Manufacturers or importers will now be obliged to make a range of essential parts (motors and motor brushes, pumps, shock absorbers and springs, washing drums, etc.) available to professional repairers for at least 7-10 years after the last unit of a model has been placed on the EU market.

For end-users, i.e. consumers who are not professional repairers, but like to repair things themselves, manufacturers must make certain spare parts available for several years after a product is taken off the market; the maximum delivery time for all these pieces is 15 working days after ordering.

 

New Energy Label

 

More information on the issue in the following Commission’s websites: –Questions & answers; – Energy label and ecodesign webpage; – Energy labeling omnibus regulation; – Ecodesign omnibus regulation; – Video and photos on EU energy label

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