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European Commission’s Ecodesign Working Plan 2016-2019 Finally Published

After an 18 month delay, the Commission has finally published its ‘Ecodesign Working Plan 2016-2019’ providing crucial insights into how the EU’s energy efficiency rules will develop in that timeframe. This will undoubtedly be of interest to many Hong Kong traders importing household electrical products into the EU. 

Under the 2005 Ecodesign Directive, the Commission may adopt EU wide standards to reduce the energy consumption of products sold on the single market. These standards are specifically determined for particular energy related product groups and generally take the form of implementing measures.

One of the requirements of the 2005 Directive is that the Commission must publish a working plan every three years setting out the list of product groups to be considered as priorities for the adoption of future energy efficiency standards. Prior to the latest adopted plan, the Commission had adopted two working plans, for the respective periods 2009–2011 and 2012–2014 on the basis of the earlier 2005 Ecodesign Directive. In that time, it has worked on nearly 50 product groups, resulting in 28 ecodesign implementing measures, 16 energy labelling regulations, and 3 product voluntary agreements.

Crucially, this latest 2016-2019 working plan has identified seven new product groups which have not been included in previous working plans or in the 2005 Ecodesign Directive, but are nonetheless considered as suitable candidates for implementing measures.

These seven product groups, which will likely all be of relevance to Hong Kong sellers, and which were selected for their significant energy savings potential, comprise electric kettles, hand dryers, elevators, building automation and control systems, solar panels and inverters, refrigerated containers, and high pressure cleaners. They will now become the focus of preparatory studies with a view to adopting individual implementing measures for each group.

Two further additions to the working plan should also be noted. Wireless chargers are to be addressed in the current implementing measures revision process for external power supplies, and signage displays are to be included in the revision process for televisions.

However, toasters and hairdryers are notably absent from the list of additions, despite being previously singled out as appropriate candidates. This serves as a reminder of the trials and tribulations which led to the delayed adoption of the working plan. Hong Traders may recall the ‘Toastergate’ saga in which the Commission was forced to scale down its energy efficiency efforts following a media and populist backlash for excessively interfering in people’s daily lives (see Regulatory Alert-EU, Issue 24/2016).

It also appears, on the basis of what is described in the working plan, that the Commission has decided to be relatively cautious in its approach to addressing information and communications technology (ICT) products. Specifically, it has limited its efforts in this area to launching a detailed study of gateways (home network equipment), mobile/smart phones, and base stations with a view to their possible inclusion in the working plan.

The Commission notes that the energy savings potential of ICT products has proven difficult to estimate due to uncertainty over future developments in the market, such as the increased connectivity of products and the rising popularity of smart appliances. Rapid technological progress has also undermined ICT products’ suitability as a candidate for ecodesign and energy labelling standards, given that the process to define product standards takes on average four years.

Aside from the notable additions, the working plan also sets out the progress made in relation to a number of previously prioritised product groups, displaying this information in a comprehensive table.

In relation to ongoing work, the Commission has also stated that it intends to adopt an ecodesign measure for air heating and cooling, an ecodesign and energy labelling measure on product testing to reduce the scope for cheating, and also a recommendation for self-regulation to support industries wishing to pursue voluntary ecodesign agreements.

The working plan also pays due attention to the fact that most implementing measures adopted to date contain review clauses, many of which fall due before 2020. Vacuum cleaners, televisions, fans and refrigerators are just some of the product groups featured in a useful table presenting all those Regulations up for review before 2020.

The final section of the working plan is devoted to market surveillance and international cooperation. The plan notes that between 10% and 25% of products on the single market at present do not comply with ecodesign and energy labelling requirements. The Commission is therefore keen to build on improvements made in its enforcement activities in recent years; for example, through funding dedicated to joint surveillance projects. It also considerers that the proposal for a Regulation on energy labelling, which is currently subject to inter-institutional negotiations, will improve enforcement.

Interestingly, an apparent thread running through the Commission’s entire working plan is the prominence given to the Ecodesign Directive’s potential to contribute to the EU achieving its circular economy goals. In this regard, the Commission has committed itself to examining numerous aspects relevant to the circular economy when revising existing implementing measures and developing new ones.

This will involve the Commission assessing the possibility of establishing more product-specific requirements in the areas of durability, reparability and recyclability. It has also stated that it intends to develop a circular economy ‘toolbox’ for Ecodesign, with a view to developing improved material efficiency requirements. The working plan notes that these could ultimately be included in revised and new implementing measures.

Please click on the following to view the Ecodesign Working Plan 2016-2019.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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