This article is part of our special report Regulating appliances of the future.
The European Union has seen significant changes in recent years to requirements for household appliances. But the most important steps may be yet to come, says Gwenole Cozigou.
Gwenole Cozigou is director of industrial transformation and advanced value chains in the European Commission’s directorate for the internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs (DG GROW). He respondent in writing to questions by EURACTIV correspondent Dave Keating.
The EU has made a big effort over the past years to improve the energy efficiency of white goods such as fridges and dishwashers. What have been the main changes, and are the results already evident?
The Commission has played a key role in achieving significant savings in energy and resource use, particularly through energy labels and Ecodesign requirements. These are empowering consumers to choose more energy efficient and eco-friendly products that allow them to make savings while contributing to our climate ambitions. At the same time, these measures are supporting our industry’s competitiveness by eliminating the least efficient products from the market.
This Commission is continuing to prepare new measures while aiming to limit their intrusiveness and focus on the products that can deliver the biggest energy and resource efficiency savings.
We estimate that thanks to existing eco-design and energy labelling requirements, the EU will have saved 15% of energy by 2020, while reducing the energy bills of European households by almost €500 each year.
Energy efficiency improvements show in concrete examples. Take refrigerators for instance, which were the first product group subject to a mandatory energy label and where we can observe a 60% energy efficiency improvement between 1995 and 2016. Similarly, thanks to EU measures, the consumption of water by dishwashers in any cycle has halved in the period from 1997 to 2015, with further savings expected by 2030.
The other big concern for these types of appliances is what happens to them at the end of their lives. A lot of attention has been paid to them in the EU’s circular economy strategy. What is the vision of the Commission on how to improve their recyclability, repairability and re-use?
Ecodesign plays a key role in building a more resource efficient and circular economy. The Commission is currently implementing a very comprehensive Eco-design Working Plan for 2016 to 2019 which has a strong focus on durability, reparability, reuse and recycling.
These aspects will play a particularly important role in the revised eco-design measures for five product groups foreseen to be presented in the forthcoming months that will include lighting, refrigerating appliances, electronic displays, dishwashers and washing machines & dryers.
The industry needs to increase its efforts. The Commission is strongly encouraging manufacturers to develop more durable, repairable and better performing products that satisfy world-wide demand while helping reduce energy and resource consumption. This should go hand in hand with the development of new and better performing products.
A big focus in the industry now is demand-side flexibility – using digital tools and connectivity to reduce energy use and ease pressure on the grid. What is the EU doing to help improve this connectivity and the availability of smart appliances?
The Commission is currently working on different aspects to incentivise the use of ‘energy smart’ appliances. In particular, we are examining ways of harmonising the energy smart features of various categories of appliances and working on expanding a standardised reference language for energy related data. In addition, a study assessing how to improve energy consumption by energy smart appliances and control systems is currently ongoing.
As regards the use of smart appliances to improve energy efficiency in buildings, we are developing a Smart Readiness Indicator (SRI) under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), to assess the buildings’ capabilities to improve energy efficiency by adapting to the needs of occupants and the grid.
There are also various sources of funding available that support further improvements in connectivity and availability of Smart Appliances, as foreseen by the Clean Energy for all Europeans package. For instance, through the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, the EU funds projects to demonstrate the role of smart homes & smart appliances in demand-response schemes.
There are also privacy concerns about the data generated by these smart appliances. Does the Commission share these concerns?
The Commission shares the concerns about the collection and potential for misuse of personal information and data by smart appliances. We are assessing whether additional EU measures are required to ensure that personal data and privacy are protected before a product can be placed on the market.
The Juncker Commission is coming to a close, and a new political mandate will begin in late 2019. What are the possibilities for new regulation for the white goods industry over the next five years? What would you say are the challenges and opportunities for the sector over the coming years?
The Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Regulations, together with the Low Voltage Directive, which covers most household appliances, are extremely effective policy instruments which support the deployment of energy efficient appliances on the single market.
Household appliances will continue to be regulated under this policy framework. The applicable requirements may need to be regularly updated, to align with technological progress and well as to continuously improve product performance.
In addition, digitisation and the circular economy will also bring new opportunities and challenges. Intelligent appliances increase convenience for consumers but require us to ensure the safety and cyber-security of such products when deployed on the market and throughout their lifecycle.
In line with our circular economy objectives, the need for products to be more durable, repairable and recycleable, should also be better reflected in our legislation to continue to reduce their impact on the environment.