The European Parliament approved on Tuesday (June 13) the introduction of new energy labels for household appliances, which MEPs and industry experts said should enable consumers to save money and cut energy consumption while helping the bloc reduce overall carbon emissions.
NGOs monitoring energy issues welcomed the new system — under which the A+, A++ or A+++ labels will be replaced by simpler A-G energy ratings — as a win-win situation for industry and consumers but deplored the lack of a firm deadline for its implementation.
“Consumers will greatly benefit from today’s decision…By early 2020 it should be easier for consumers to choose the most energy-efficient fridge or TV and save money,” Sylvia Maurer, policy director at BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation, said in a statement.
“However, consumers will have to wait up to 2030 to see the new label on space and water heaters. This delay is unacceptable because when consumers buy a new heater, they need to know how much energy it consumes… Also, the fact that the two labels will coexist on the market for about a decade might confuse consumers,” she added.
Laura Degallaix, the Director of ECOS environmental group, voiced a similar concern.
“The decision….has been long awaited. But if Europe is to truly reduce its energy consumption, the European Commission will need to ramp up efforts to make this a fast and smooth transition,” she said.
The alliance of far-left parties in the European Parliament refrained from voting for the same reason and called for energy labeling to be done “now and not in ten years”.
A Commission spokeswoman told EURACTIV.com that new A-G labels for TVs, lamps, washing machines, fridges and dishwashers must be introduced from the start of 2020 onwards.
For products like air-conditioners, tumble dryers, vacuum cleaners, ovens, range hoods, and residential ventilation units, “this will happen most likely between 2021 and 2025,” she said. For heating products, the latest date on which the new label will be available to consumers will be around 2030.
The Commission will keep a detailed online database of products which consumers will be able to access via QR codes on the products and make an immediate comparison of appliances they are interested in. According to MEP Michal Boni of the Socialists and Democrats, “80 percent of consumers look at energy labels when buying an appliance”.
Climate and Energy Commissioner Miguel Aries Cañete told Parliament that the new labelling requirements would be the same for imports and EU-manufactured products.
According to the Commission, the new system could save 200 terawatt hours (200 billion kWh) of energy every year — the equivalent of the three Baltic countries’ entire annual energy consumption.
A combination of product design and labelling will lead to energy savings of some 165 million tonnes of oil equivalent by 2020, roughly the same as the annual primary energy consumption of Italy, the Commission said. This translates into €490 a year in savings on household energy bills and €55 billion in extra revenue for European businesses.
“I am more and more convinced consumers want to reduce their carbon emissions and all they need is help. Simplifying the labelling is absolutely crucial. How can anybody work out the scheme of A or A++? This is the way the EU must move,” said Seán Kelly, an MEP from the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest political group in Parliament.