Oettinger lashes out at ‘anti-European’ Ecodesign campaigns

Günther Oettinger [European Parliament]

EXCLUSIVE / Campaigns by politicians and press against EU energy saving consumer initiatives risk stirring anti-European sentiment and will not be taken lightly in Brussels, the energy commissioner Günther Oettinger has said in a letter to ministers at the energy council today (13 June), which EURACTIV has seen.

The commissioner’s missive followed attacks by German politicians and the UK press on attempts to reduce energy wastage from household products under the EU’s Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives.

“Candidates and political parties have fulminated against the Union’s efforts to reduce the energy consumption of, for example, light bulbs, vacuum cleaners and coffee machines,” Oettinger says in the letter. “We have seen similar attempts in the past, when national press [sic] has used these measures in a way that risks creating anti-European feelings amongst citizens.”

“This should not be taken lightly,” he continues. “Attempts at undermining ecodesign and energy labelling directly undermine [sic] our energy policy.”

The Eurosceptic Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which recently joined the British Tory-led ECR group, has condemned Ecodesign measures such as improving the efficiency of vacuum cleaners, in its recent election campaign.

But “this policy is not – as has been implied in the political debate – a brainchild of bureaucrats in the Commission,” Oettinger protests. “It has, as you know, found strong support along every step of the way both in Council and in the European Parliament.”

“The Union has few policies with broader support from industry, as well as consumer organisations and environmental NGOs,” the German commissioner says.

In his letter, Oettinger makes the case that Ecodesign and energy labelling measures increase business competitiveness, cut household bills, reduce CO2 emissions and strengthen energy independence.

The AfD’s criticisms echoed those of British newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Telegraph, which have long irritated EU policy-makers with hostile coverage of the Ecodesign Directive.

Vacuum policy

The Mail campaigned to save the UK’s “beloved light bulb” after the directive phased out 100 Watt light fittings, while the Telegraph stirred opposition to energy-saving measures for vacuum cleaners, which they said would lead to weaker machines, a claim dismissed by environmentalists.

 “A lot of people make the mistake of thinking there will be a lack of performance related to the cap on energy use by vacuum cleaner,” Jack Hunter, a spokesman for coolpropducts, which campaigns for energy saving products, told EURACTIV. “This couldn’t be further from the truth. The cleaners will have exactly the same effectiveness but will just cost you less to run.”

According to the coolpropducts website, cost savings from Ecodesign measures taking in vacuum cleaners, light bulbs, boilers and fridges will reach €79 billion a year by 2020, an aggregate of €350 per European household.

The carbon dioxide emissions avoided by these products could reach 56 million tonnes of oil equivalent, enough to offset the energy consumed by 200 large coal power stations, or from 150 million cars, the group says.

The EU is currently considering a review of the two directives, which may recommend new measures. Observers expect it to be published in November.   

The European Union's Ecodesign Directive introduced a framework to set mandatory ecological requirements for energy-using and energy-related products sold in the 27 member states.

Currently the scope covers more than 40 product groups, including boilers, lightbulbs and fridges that are responsible for 40% of the EU greenhouse gas emissions.

The aim of the directive is that manufactures of the energy-using products should, at the design stage, be obliged to reduce the energy consumption and other environmental impacts of products.

  • November 2014: EU review of Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives expected to be published

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