Energy label: will we come back to the A-G scale?

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The European Commission is going to complete the process undertaken to review the current energy label in order to eliminate the classes above the ‘A’ and restore the old A to G scale. But what will this imply?

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By Tiziana Corti

One of the hot topics on which the Industry, Research and Energy Committee of the European Parliament is focusing on is the renewal of the energy label of home appliances. A measure in question for some time that seems, by the latest developments, will soon come to an end.
Although the last decision will be that of the Trialogue and of the Council of Ministers.
The issue of rescale the energy classes arises because, in recent years and very quickly, in some product categories, such as washing machines and refrigerators, a substantial ‘crowding’ above the A class has occurred, thus creating the superior classes: A+, A++ and A+++.
At the same time, the classes from B to G have almost disappeared in these sectors.
At this point, it is clear to everyone that it is not possible to add ‘plusses’ after the A indefinitely and that industry should find a clear way to go on marking the innovation and the higher levels of efficiency that will come to pass the A+++ class.
From these considerations the hypothesis arises of eliminating the classes upper to the ‘A’ and to come back to indicate the most efficient class of all (currently the A+++) with ‘A’ and all the lower ones with the other letters from B to G.

The industry asks for a clear transition
An apparently simple and reasonable operation such as the rescaling of energy label has actually several implications for the household appliance sector, which is following the issue directly in Brussels, presenting every perplexity and consequence of the revision.
As first inevitable matter, industry and trade underline that the renewal of established labels throughout Europe must not throw the market into chaos or, above all, create confusion and skepticism among consumers.
In the first days of the new scale application, in fact, end users, accustomed to look for classes A+ and following, could see a B or C class they had not seen for a long time associated with certain appliances. The information about the transition, therefore, must be transmitted in a clear and unequivocal way for the first time. It has also been supposed the accost the old label to the new one to compare them during the first times.

The state of the art of the upgrading
The Industry, Research and Energy Committee of the European Parliament approved the text of the framework directive on the energy labelling which must pass to the negotiations with the Council of Ministers. Let’s see in detail the contents of the draft that can be integrally consulted on the EU Parliament website (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/news-room/20160613IPR32052/upgrading-eu-energy-efficiency-labelling-industry-meps-amend-draft-eu-rules).
Among the key points of the proposal, there is first the obligation to keep the new scale for at least 10 years. The review will initially affect only those sectors where there is a real overcrowding. Where this does not exist, the energy label remains unchanged for now. In these cases the situation will be reviewed, and the label eventually rescaled, only after six years.
Another important matter of the draft is the decision to leave empty the new class A for the moment, to apply it only to the latest innovations in the field of energy efficiency.

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INDUSTRY AND TRADE: A MATCH TO WIN TOGETHER
The eventual rescaling and revision of the energy label of home appliances is a very hot topic for the entire sector, no one excluded.
While, in fact, on the one hand the industry will have to apply the new labels by reclassifying its production in a way that could create confusion for end users and could make producers lose significant market share; on the other hand distribution will have the most thankless of tasks: to explain to the consumer how it is possible that a refrigerator in B class is the best available, while until yesterday it was that in A +++ class.
The matter, in fact, is thorny in at least two points of view: the first is the apparent 'downgrading', that common people cannot understand unless properly informed. The second is the intention, already formulated in the draft, of leaving the upper classes, - such as A and B - temporarily empty in order to reserve them to future innovation and not come back to repeat a series of '+' after the alphabet letters.
This would mean that a product at the highest levels of efficiency could be placed even in a C class.
How to explain it to the consumer?
THE OPINION OF INDUSTRY
PAOLO FALCIONI, GENERAL DIRECTOR OF CECED EUROPE
Paolo Falcioni
Paolo Falcioni
«The two legislators - the European Parliament and the European Council - are working to find an agreement that balances the requests of the Council of November 2015and those of the Parliament of last July. If they reach an agreement the two lawmakers should then approve the final text. It seems logical to expect the publication of the new law in the European Journal early next year.
In the discussion, Ceced brought to the attention of the legislators the key need of the industry: a clear and well-working labelling system. At the moment they questioned the system, we asked to reach a solution able to hold for the next twenty years. The identification of a clear mechanism that triggers the rescaling is compatible with our initial requests.
The rescaling is, in fact, the way identified by both legislators to overcome the constraint of the current energy label. We cannot go above the A+++, thus we must lower the classification of products. The main demand of the industry, well received by both legislators, is the market stability. Each rescaling leads necessarily to a period of potential confusion on the market, so we need to minimize this occurrence. So it becomes important to estimate the possible technological evolution of each product before defining the new label. Ideally we would like there were 10 years of stability with the new label for each product. We do not care so much if the empty classes should be one, two or none. It will depend on the technological development forecast for the product concerned.
It will be important to draw up a timetable for determining quickly and with determination the products that need an urgent rescaling, and then follow with the others.
The industry is ready to support the new instrument, with an important caveat: it should be clear to the consumer that the product is as efficient as before, even if the new classification will be different. In other words, it will change the scale of measurement (the label), not the efficiency of the product on sale.
In some cases, such as the washing machine and the refrigerator, it will probably change much also the measurement method, to make the estimate of the used energy even closer to the real consumer habits.
To anticipate the implications on the market is objectively difficult. It will be an interesting exercise in which everyone must do their part: press in communicating the news, manufacturers in supplying the new labels, retailers in using them. The consumer, always very careful to the change, will have the biggest role then: to go beyond just the letter and understand the real potential of the product on sale.»