EU nations agree to broaden eco-design rules

  

EU lawmakers last week agreed to broaden EU laws regulating energy-efficiency standards for electrical appliances to also include products which help reduce power consumption, such as insulation material.

Representatives of the 27 EU member states and the European Parliament struck an agreement last week to extend the scope of the 2005 Eco-design Directive, which sets minimum efficiency requirements for products running on electricity such as hairdryers, computers, fridges, or office equipment.

A range of products were added to the directive, including windows, construction products, insulation materials, detergents and water-using products that have an impact on the final energy consumption of households. 

The law is being updated so that products that have an energy impact also comply with ecological design standards in the future, obtain the CE label, and win approval to enter the EU's internal market.

The Parliament had requested a clear timetable for extending the product list further. It said the Commission should come up with a proposal by 2012, broadening the scope to all products with "significant potential for reducing their environmental impacts throughout their whole life-cycles" (EurActiv 18/02/09).

However, this review was not supported by governments. Instead, the compromise text states that the Commission will simply "assess the appropriateness of further extending the scope" to cover all products, an aide to MEP Magor Imre Csibi, the Parliament's rapporteur on the dossier, told EurActiv.

Focus on life-cycle

The Parliament did, however, manage to obtain the revision of a methodology for environmental impact studies that will be required before proposing new eco-design measures under the revised directive. The Commission had originally stated that there is no need for such a new methodology.

For MEPs, a review of the methodology was needed to ensure that the whole product life-cycle, including sustainable management of resources, is taken into account when assessing the environmental impacts of a product. Instead of focusing only on energy-efficiency, the compromise text puts greater emphasis on other issues too.

As a result, the Commission will now attach a declaration to the law stating that they will study different options, according to MEP Csibi's office. This process will start immediately, the source added.

Member states' EU ambassadors endorsed the deal at their meeting on 25 March. A Parliament vote is scheduled for April, and the regulation will be formally adopted by the EU Council of Ministers after that.

Implementation at full speed

In the meantime, the Council's Eco-design Regulatory Committee has had a busy month approving implementing measures under the old directive to push through legislation before the Parliament goes into recess ahead of the elections (EurActiv 12/03/09).

On Friday (27 March), the latest vote by national experts endorsed a Commission proposal to reduce the electricity consumption of circulators, small pumps used to circulate water in heating applications or in boilers.

The regulation seeks to phase out low and standard-efficiency circulators. Allowing only high-efficiency circulators on the EU market in 2015 would save the bloc €2.2 billion in electricity bills by 2020, the Commission says.

Positions: 

Jana Reinišová, deputy permanent representative of the Czech Republic to the EU, said the Eco-design Directive was in line with the Czech Presidency's priorities. "It strengthens the internal market, increases energy efficiency and improves the protection of the environment," she said. "This is because the directive sets out clear criteria for relevant products and these criteria will be valid throughout the EU. In this way, it removes barriers to cross-border trade that are due to different national requirements," she added.

Commenting on the measure reducing the energy use of circulators, Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said: "The measure is a concrete contribution to reach the EU's energy efficiency and climate protection targets and will result very quickly in significant energy savings and benefits for the society and industry, as foreseen in the European Commission's Economic Recovery Plan."

Timeline: 
  • April: Plenary due to adopt the directive extending the scope of eco-design rules.
  • After this date: EU Council of Ministers still to give final seal of approval.
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