Thursday, January 31, 2008

Environment: EU debates energy labelling of products

Wednesday afternoon sees MEPs debate a report from Parliament's Energy Committee that calls for energy savings of 20% by 2020 to be made through increased efficiency. Among its proposals are up-to-date energy-labelling and minimum standards for electrical goods. Drafted by British Liberal Fiona Hall, it calls for a "holistic" approach to energy saving that will include buildings, transport and VAT relief for energy improvements.

The own-initiative report "Action Plan for Energy Efficiency: Realising the Potential" underlines the need for member states to improve the implementation of existing energy efficiency legislation. For example, the report criticises many EU governments for not yet implementing rules on the energy performance of buildings (only 5 of the 27 EU countries have implemented it in time).

European Commission's 20-20-20 climate plan

The energy efficiency report comes only a week after European Commission President José Manuel Barroso introduced plans to make Europe "the first economy for the low-carbon age". Addressing an extraordinary plenary on 23 January he laid out the aim of a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20% increase in energy efficiency and a 20% increase in the use of renewable fuel - all by 2020. Assembled MEPs mostly reacted favourably to the plans, although there was some dissent with some Green Members who called for more rigorous targets.

Minimum standards and labelling

The Hall report sets down clear requirements for electrical equipment:

Minimum energy performance standards for air conditioning and televisions.
Dynamic revision of labelling.

Phasing out of inefficient light bulbs and patio (outdoor) heaters.

Introduction of 1-watt stand-by facilities with a "1-watt stand-by system or no stand-by at all, if possible".

Timetables to withdraw the most inefficient electrical goods from the market.

The report welcomes the "Energy Star agreement" with the US, which sets common energy standards for office equipment.

EU energy and eco-labels

The EU already has 2 labelling systems to show to show energy efficiency and environmentally friendly appliances and other goods are.

With the compulsory EU energy label for light bulbs, cars and most electrical appliances (refrigerators, stoves, washing machines)., 'A' stands for the most energy efficient and 'G' for the least. A+ and A++ have recently been introduced for fridges.

The Eco-label flower is a voluntary scheme to encourage businesses to market products and services that are kinder to the environment and for European consumers to easily identify them.
Ahead of the debate Ms Hall said "the A to G system gets over to people the idea of how much energy appliances are using. However, there are worries that the system is out of date (for example fridge technology has advanced dramatically)."

Concerning more energy efficient buildings the report asks for:

The report wants all new and renovated buildings to be included in the revision of the buildings directive from 2009. Ms Hall said "we want to see all buildings less than 1000m2 included". This would include homes. She wants EU states to consider low rates of VAT for materials and labour that contribute to a building's efficiency.

The report proposes the EU spend 5% of it structural and cohesion funding on increasing the energy efficiency of homes. The current rate is 3%.

It also backs increasing use of efficient cogeneration boilers (combining heat and power) and calls for minimum standards for windows in new and renovated buildings.

If I rent my place why should I do any work on it?

With regards to energy savings in homes Fiona Hall told us "the landlord-tenant relationship is crucial" in any effort to improve energy efficiency in Europe. The problem is that tenants are often unwilling to make changes to apartments or houses if they do not own them - as they feel they will receive no reward for their investment. Landlords are also reluctant to invest in energy efficient renovation due to the cost - or may try to pass the cost on to the tenant.

The report is discussed on Wednesday and voted on Thursday.

Source: European Parliament