Ecodesign in simple terms

Many of us might be unaware that a wide range of products commonly found in our homes are ‘ecodesigned’. What does it mean? Ecodesign is a set of measures that compels manufacturers to make our fridges, televisions, light bulbs and many more consumer products less energy-intensive.

According to EU Commission estimates, 80% of all environmental impacts could be avoided during the design phase of a product. Therefore, the EU introduced a law in 2005 which sets ecodesign requirements for energy-using products. 

Since then, only the products that fulfil the minimum Ecodesign requirements are allowed on the European market. Hence, consumers are provided with less polluting products and save money. Because if a product consumes less energy consumers pay less for electricity. The EU Energy Label encourages manufacturers to go the extra mile and provide products that go beyond these minimum requirements.

In addition to limiting the energy consumption of products, requirements in areas such as durability (e.g. minimum lifetime of products), repairability (e.g. availability of spare parts) and upgradeability are also looked into.

A new work plan 2016-2019

On 30 November 2016, the European Commission released the Ecodesign work plan 2016-2019, which details the Ecodesign work to be undertaken for the three years to come.

It contains a clear political mandate to continue to revise existing product groups and to start work on new product groups. In addition, we strongly support provisions to ensure new products are more durable.

However, the list of new products to be covered under Ecodesign is unambitious. More consumer products, such as mobile phones, need to be taken on board.

Energy label

While the benefits of Ecodesign are invisible to consumers, the Energy Label is displayed on the product. It helps consumers make an informed choice by providing the level of energy performance of the product they consider buying. Transparency and high visibility of the Energy Label incentivises manufacturers to continue improving the energy performance of their products.

In March 2017, the European Union institutions have updated the energy label. In the future consumers will benefit from a simpler A-G scale that will replace the confusing A+, A++ and A+++ classes.

An online database displaying all product models which have to carry an EU Energy Label will be set up. This will increase transparency for consumers and help them choose products that serve their needs.

Concretely, when can consumers see the new label in shops?

The pace of the rescaling should be faster to ensure consumers' confusion ends as quickly as possible.


Energy Star labelling

The EU Energy Star label is used in the EU for five office equipments: computers, printers, servers, screens and uninterruptible power supplies. It indicates that the product meets a set of energy efficiency criteria. It should therefore enable consumers to easily identify energy-smart devices.

As opposed to the mandatory Energy labelling and Ecodesign requirements, the EU Energy Star is a voluntary scheme that manufacturers can choose to stick to.

The EU Energy Star programme is based on an agreement between the European Union and the government of the United States to coordinate on energy labelling of office equipment. The agreement is for renewal in 2018.


Tyre labelling

The purpose of the tyre label is to help consumers to make informed choices when purchasing tyres, by considering:

  • which tyres can help them save on fuel?
  • does the tyre allow for shorter braking distance?
  • what is the noise level of the tyres?

In other words, the label aims to make road transport cheaper, safer and greener.

However, the label deserves to be reviewed. For example, it should also cover snow and ice grip. This would be helpful especially for Nordic consumers who are more likely to drive on snowy roads. Durability requirements would ensure consumers can easily choose tyres that last longer.

Ecodesign and energy label

The Ecodesign and energy labelling measures can alleviate the environmental impacts of products while improving their overall quality. They also decrease running costs for European households.

To get a clear picture about the financial savings Ecodesign generates for consumers, ANEC and BEUC commissioned a study in 2016. Here are the main findings:

  • Consumers save every year up to €330 thanks to Ecodesign. This is because EU laws have enabled manufacturers to produce less energy-guzzling products.
  • Consumers’ savings can increase to over €450 per year if they choose a product which is in the top class of the Energy Label.
  • Ecodesign can also help improve consumer products, like making vacuum cleaners more silent.
  • Further savings potential in setting durability requirements.

Useful links: factsheet, study summary, full study.


Tyre labelling

While the energy label mainly helps consumers choose energy-efficient household appliances and in turn save money, the tyre label promotes safety. The goal of the tyre label is not only to boost the production of more fuel-efficient tyres and decrease noise levels but also to promote safe drives for consumers.


EU Energy Star

Before the EU decides to renew or not the agreement with the US, tests will be necessary to assess the effectiveness of the scheme and consumer understanding.

It is BEUC’s and ANEC’s role to ensure that the EU institutions take into consideration the consumer view when setting criteria for Ecodesign, energy label, energy star and tyre labelling. Together with our members, we strive to ensure the agreed measures deliver savings for consumers and help protect the environment.

Both the Ecodesign and Energy labelling Directive establish a group of experts called the "Consultation Forum" of which European consumer organisations ANEC and BEUC are official members. The Forum supports the European Commission in developing new legislation which aims to make products more sustainable.

When it comes to the Energy Star, we intend to participate in the annual meetings of the EU Energy Star Board once the renewal of the scheme is clarified and further developments take place.

Regarding tyre labelling, ANEC and BEUC will voice the consumers interests during the revision of the scheme, which has started in 2017.  


BEUC acts as the umbrella group in Brussels for over 40 well-respected, independent national consumer organisations from 31 European countries. BEUC’s main task is to represent them at European stage and defend the interests of all Europe’s consumers. Visit BEUC's website.

ANEC is the European consumer voice in standardisation representing consumer organisations from 33 European countries in the creation of technical standards, especially those developed to support the implementation of European laws and public policies. Visit ANEC's website.

The Öko-Institut (Institute for Applied Ecology) provides us with technical expertise.

 

  • In 2017, EU legislators decided to modernise the label. Thanks to ANEC and BEUC’s efforts it will help consumers choose easily the most energy-efficient applicances and save money.
  • BEUC hosted a well-attended roundtable in November 2016 where the European Commission’s First Vice President Frans Timmermans and Vice President Jyrki Katainen delivered strong messages about the need for Ecodesign.
  • In the Ecodesign Work Plan for 2016-2019, the Commission echoed our demands to focus not only on the energy savings potential of products but also to take into account resource efficiency.
  • ANEC and BEUC proposed to add durability requirements to the Ecodesign rules on vacuum cleaners. Thanks to our work, vacuum cleaners will not only be more energy-efficient from September 2017, but their motors will be required to sustain at least 500 hours of use.

Our factsheets:

 
Ecodesign houseSimplifying the EU energy label

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our position papers:

  
Consumer views on Ecodesign work plan 2016-2019How consumers benefit from Ecodesign year after yearANEC/BEUC comments
on lighting regulations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our video

BEUC's Director of Sustainability Sylvia Maurer calls on MEPs to help consumers save more money ahead of the plenary vote on energy labelling on July 6th, 2016.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Find all our related publications here.

Aline Maigret, Ecodesign Project Coordinator (ANEC/BEUC)Michela Vuerich, Programme Manager (ANEC)Sylvia Maurer, Director of Sustainability & Safety (BEUC)

ANEC - The European consumer voice in standardisation

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E-mail: anec@anec.eu

BEUC - The European Consumer Organisation

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Tel: +32 2 743 15 93
E-mail: environment@beuc.eu