Member states approved a European Commission proposal to make it illegal to put inefficient motors on the market after 2011. Big motors will have to be highly efficient from 2015, and all other motors likewise by 2017.
According to the EU executive, the new rules will reduce annual CO2 emissions by 63 Mt and save the bloc €9 billion by 2020, with expected annual electricity savings estimated as equalling the total consumption of Sweden.
The measure is part of the Eco-Design Directive, which sets out minimum efficiency standards for energy-using products. It will now have to go through three-months of parliamentary scrutiny before its adoption (see EurActiv LinksDossier on the issue).
Before the end of March, the experts will also vote on standards for fridges, televisions, dishwashers and washing machines. The schedule is deliberately tight, in an attempt to make sure the measures undergo parliamentary scrutiny before elections in June, thus avoiding implementation delays.
Citizens united for more ambitious rules
Green organisations, however, are claiming that the proposed measures are both not ambitious enough and under threat of being diluted by industry.
Campaigners today gathered outside the Commission's Berlaymont headquarters to deliver European decision-makers a mass petition signed by more than 100,000 European citizens. It urges EU lawmakers to adopt efficiency standards that are strong enough to achieve half of the EU's goal of cutting emissions by 20% by 2020.
According to the Netherlands Society for Nature and Environment and the Friends of the Earth Europe, the organisers of the event, ambitious eco-design rules could reduce Europe's CO2 emissions by 450 million tonnes per year, equalling the total emissions of all European cars. Moreover, the measures voted on could alone save Europe 100 million tonnes of CO2, the groups say.
"We have reached our goal of getting 100,000 signatures, which is huge for something this technical," Edouard Toulouse, an eco-design expert at the European Environmental Citizens' Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS), told EurActiv.
In some cases, measures need to be strengthened, he said, adding that in others, it is crucial to safeguard the scope of the proposals in the face of industry pressure.
According to Toulouse, market trends are particularly worrying for televisions, where studies show that electricity consumption will double by 2020 as people opt for plasma TVs with bigger screens. Some manufacturers already stand ready to manufacture televisions that are 50% more efficient, while the Commission's proposal only requires a 20% energy improvement in the next three to four years, he said.
Toulouse said the proposed new efficiency standards for fridges fall equally short in ambition, insisting that industry is already prepared to deliver savings as a voluntary measure.