Member-state representatives agreed a new energy label layout for televisions, fridges, freezers, washing machines and dishwashers, based on the existing A-G energy efficiency classes. The meeting of the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Regulatory Committee endorsed a European Commission proposal to "go beyond A", as most products have ended up in the 'A' category over the years as a result of technical development.
Consequently, additional classes will be added to the top class, so that "A-20%", for example, indicates that the product consumes 20% less energy than a traditional 'A class' product.
The new labels will be phased in progressively for different products. For fridges and freezers, the regulatory committee agreed to replace the A+ and A++ labels with 'A-20%' and 'A-40%' classifications by 2011.
The Commission says the new label format will make it easier for consumers to judge how much better the products ranked above 'A class' really are. It argues that as the labels are still based on the well-known A-G labels, there is no confusion.
Consumer groups unhappy
Consumer groups ANEC and BEIC, however, slammed the new scheme. They said the new label is "misleading and unclear", and said consumers clearly preferred the straightforward A-G label.
"Member states and the European Commission should not count on consumer organisations' efforts to communicate the meaning of this new layout to the users. We will not promote a label which is so incomprehensible," said Monique Goyens, BEUC director-general.
Stricter energy standards
At the same meeting, the committee also approved new minimum energy-efficiency standards for televisions and large household appliances under the Eco-design Directive.
From July 2010, only televisions that are more efficient than the current average are allowed to be sold on the internal market. From 1 April 2012, this efficiency requirement will rise by a further 20%.
For refrigerators and freezers, the current energy classes of B, C and below will be taken off the market by 1 July 2010, with Class A following by 2012. In 2014, only the most efficient products will be allowed to be sold.
Washing machines with lower ratings will be banned by 2010, and the current Class A will be faced out by 2013.
According to the Commission, the measures will save the EU 51 TWh of electricity annually by 2020, the equivalent of annual electricity consumption of Portugal and Latvia.
Green groups, nevertheless, criticised the EU for rushing through unambitious legislation before the elections (EurActiv 12/03/09), They said the planned energy improvements for fridges, televisions and washing machines would deliver about 20 million tonnes of CO2 savings per year by 2020, but estimated that the full potential of the adopted measures could have been 30 Mt of CO2 savings.