Energy-using products eco-design gathers pace

Progress under the eco-design of energy-using products Directive is beginning to gather pace. The European Commission circulated proposals on four major product groups in January.

Plans to improve the environmental performance of motors, cold appliances, televisions and circulators or fans were published by the European Commission in late January. The proposals are likely to form implementing measures under the 2005 eco-design of energy-using products (EuP) Directive and the 1992 energy labelling framework Directive. Proposals for water heaters are expected shortly.

The EuP Directive gives manufacturers the option of voluntary self-regulation on eco-design measures specific to each product group or else face the imposition of measures from outside. The requirements are generally based on a life-cycle assessment of product impacts and to date have focused on improved energy efficiency.

The process is a lengthy one. Each implementing measure is preceded by preparatory studies and an assessment conducted by external experts and the Commission. This aims to find cost-effective solutions for improving the environmental performance of products. Proposals are then scrutinised by a consultation forum and a regulatory committee. Any proposals must also be cleared by the World Trade Organisation before passing through the European Parliament.

The measures are directly applicable in member state law. Proposals for the energy labelling of certain products must however be transposed into UK national law.

Significant CO2 savings are expected from the Directive. By 2020 the Commission is expecting the current workplan to deliver 25% of the EU’s target - some 250 million tonnes of CO2. Around three quarters of this will be achieved by measures targeting heating, motors and lighting. A legislative proposal to widen the scope of the Directive is also undergoing first reading in the European Parliament (ENDS Report 403, pp 52-53 ).

The first tranche of work under the Directive covers 25 product groups, with implementing measures for each at various stages of development (see box). The latest proposals set to be scrutinised by the Regulatory Committee in March are:

  • Televisions: Minimum energy efficiency standards will see an estimated 10% of UK models needing to improve their energy efficiency to meet the first standards (tier 1), rising to 41% in April 2012 (tier 2).1 Energy labels for televisions will be updated every three years.2 Under current proposals, the average 42" TV on the UK market would fall under band D. A 5% tolerance level will be set to compensate for any manufacturing and testing variations. Proposals to keep energy labels updated over time have also been outlined, but this has proved to be controversial (see pp 53 ).
  • Motors: Minimum efficiency standards have been proposed for all motors and adjustable speed drives.3 These are based on existing voluntary efficiency thresholds set by the International Electrotechnical Commission where IE1 is the lowest efficiency class and IE4 the best in class. Under the Commission’s proposals from 2011 motors will need to meet or exceed IE2 standards. From 2015 only motors that meet or exceed IE3 standards can be sold. According to the Commission, 85% of the motors sold in Europe are the lowest efficiency class motors - IE1. Energy labelling may be brought in at a later date once management standards have been finalised.

  • Cold appliances: Proposals cover fridges, dishwashers and washing machines.4 All will be revised within seven years.

    Tier 1 proposals for fridges will see the phase-out of all compressor models with lower performance than the current A-rated models. Efficiency requirements will also remove the most inefficient absorption fridges, and those using other technologies. Tier 2 proposals slightly tighten efficiency requirements for all fridges, bar compressor fridges. The third stage sets efficiency targets that will see the phase-out of all A-rated compressor based models and further tightens efficiency requirements for all other models.

    For dishwashers, models that perform less well than the current A-rated appliances will be phased out under tier 1 proposals. Tier 3 proposals will see a phase-out of all A-rated models as efficiency requirements tighten. The UK while supporting these plans, wants a water consumption standard to be built into the implementing measure and has confirmed it will press for its inclusion.

    The first stage of the proposals for washing machines will set energy efficiency requirements phasing out machines that wash less well than the current A-rated machines - apart from the very smallest, for which B-rated performance will be accepted. The second stage, two years after entry into force, will set requirements to prevent over-use of detergent. In six years time, efficiency requirements will phase out all A and A+ rated machines. Details of how the labels will be kept up to date has also been outlined (see p 53 ).

    Measurement tolerances for all cold appliances will be reduced from 15% to 10%. However, the UK government believes this could be further reduced to 5% and intends to push for this. The UK government also intends to assess whether correction factors - up to 20% for frost free, climate class and built in fridge freezers - are still needed.

    Energy labelling proposals have been published alongside the eco-design measures.5 A year after the implementing measure comes into force energy labels for fridge freezers will be recalculated so current A-rated models will fall under band C. For washing machines and dishwashers A-rated models will become B. Information on noise and drying efficiency will also feature on the label.

  • Circulators: First-stage requirements in 2012 will phase out all circulators that perform under the current A-rated threshold set in the industry’s voluntary labelling scheme.6 This standard will be raised slightly during the second stage in 2015. The impact of this on the UK market is still being determined, but it is expected to be "quite significant" according to the Environment Department (DEFRA).

    No energy labelling scheme is proposed because of the narrow efficiency bands left after minimum efficiency requirements enter into force.

    It is understood that industry groups are currently working to develop voluntary proposals for complex set-top boxes, imaging equipment and medical equipment in an attempt to stave of regulation.

  • As yet there is no clear timetable for commercial cold appliances, fans for ventilation, domestic fans, room air conditioners, vacuum cleaners, laundry dryers and domestic lighting reflectors and luminaries. Studies for these are nearing completion and measures are expected to be agreed by summer 2010.

    Tenders have been issued for studies on products outlined in the Commission’s second tranche of work which will cover room heating products, hot air central heating, domestic and commercial ovens, domestic and commercial hobs, professional washing machines, non-tertiary coffee makers, networked stand-by losses, domestic uninterruptible power supplies, refrigerating and freezing equipment, transformers and sound and imaging equipment. Once these have been let, studies are expected to last for up to two years.

    At a recent stakeholder conference in February, the government confirmed that consultations are planned this year to help prepare the UK for implementation. One will deal with UK market surveillance and enforcement issues, another will be on guidance on specific product groups, and a third will look at updated UK projections on the CO2 avoided through eco-design measures up to 2025.

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