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European Parliament Vote Advances Energy Efficiency Label Reform

On 6 July 2016, the European Parliament voted in plenary over an EU proposal to reform energy efficiency labels placed on products including a variety of household goods such as refrigerators, cooking appliances, washing machines and dishwashers. The reform will lay down a framework that applies to energy-related products and provides them with a label regarding energy efficiency, absolute consumption of energy and other environmental and performance characteristics. It is intended that the reform will allow customers to choose more energy-efficient products in order to reduce their energy consumption.

The proposal’s progress through the European parliamentary procedure has not been easy. In mid-June this year, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee had rejected moving the legislative proposal to open interinstitutional negotiations, effectively stalling the date when new energy labelling rules could come into effect. However, the proposal, together with the Parliament’s proposed amendments, only barely cleared the vote, with 353 votes in favour and 332 against.

The proposed Regulation concerns a new A to G energy labelling scheme meant to be clearer to consumers when they choose energy efficient products. Current energy efficiency labels generally rank products from G, the least efficient class, to different rankings above A. MEPs and environmental groups have noted that the existence of classes A+, A++ and A+++ mislead consumers, who may reasonably believe an A-class appliance to be the most efficient on the market.

The European Commission first published the legislative proposal endorsing A-to-G labelling in July 2015. When eventually adopted and in effect, the law will repeal existing Directive 2010/30/EU on energy labelling.

The European Parliament has asked for the definition of the energy label to be as follows: “a graphic diagram, in printed or electronic form, including a closed scale using only letters from A to G, each class corresponding to significant energy savings, in seven different colours from dark green to red, in order to inform customers about energy efficiency and energy consumption”. The future Regulation should therefore allow the use of electronic labels complementary to the printed energy label. This would not affect the duty of the supplier to accompany each unit of a product with a printed label for the dealer.

The proposed timeframe for adapting product labels to the A to G scheme is within five years from entry into force of the future Regulation. There are two exceptions to the five-year earmark: first, heating appliances have six years to conform; second, dishwashers, refrigerators, washing machines, televisions and lamps may be forced to switch within 21 months, subject to the Commission carrying out a preparatory study.

MEPs also agreed to exempt second-hand products. They additionally amended the Commission’s proposal by exempting all means of transport including those with motors that stay in the same location during operation, such as elevators, escalators and conveyor belts.

In addition, MEPs were found to be in favour of introducing a new consumer right, namely, to receive a full refund for household items that do not comply with the energy efficiency label. However, they also supported a controversial provision which would allow products to be sold without an energy efficiency label if there is none and the supplier is no longer in the market.

Furthermore, the proposal aims to set up a “product database” consisting of a consumer website, where data concerning the energy-related products is publicly available, and a “compliance interface” (i.e. an electronic platform supporting the work of national market surveillance authorities), available in all the languages of the countries where the products are placed on the market.

MEPs proposed that any future labelling should aim for a validity period of at least 10 years. Trigger criteria for future rescales include when:

  • 25% of the products sold within the EU market fall into the top energy efficiency class A; or
  • 50% of the products sold within the EU market fall into the top two energy efficiency classes A and B.

In product groups showing rapid technological progress, classes A and B should both be empty before labelling reform, said MEPs.

Additional requirements exist. For one, the presentation of the label should be clear. It should contain information about the energy efficiency class of the product model, and its absolute consumption in kWh, displayed per year or any relevant period of time. Some product groups disallow energy classes F and G. In these situations, F and G should be shown on the label in grey, and the standard dark green to red spectrum of the label should be retained for the remaining upper classes.

Suppliers and dealers would have to refer to the energy efficiency class of the product in any visual advertisement or technical promotional material for a specific model of product.

Having narrowly cleared its first reading in the European Parliament, the EU proposal will henceforth be discussed in trilogue negotiations between the three institutions: the European Parliament, the EU Council and the Commission. This is expected after the summer period. It is therefore possible that an agreement on a final text can be reached by the end of this year.

For more information, please click on the following European Parliament web page for, among others, the amendments adopted by the European Parliament.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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