Ecodesign requirements for energy-related appliances, from fridges and vacuum cleaners, are cutting carbon emissions and energy bills across Europe. But questions remain on how to defend the policy from ill-founded attacks by the press and improve its effectiveness.  

Ecodesign removes the least energy efficient products from the market by setting standards that demand a certain level of performance.

Thanks to more efficient products, every home in Europe can look forward to reduced energy bills worth nearly €500 per year by 2020.

The policy is delivering half of Europe’s energy savings target and a quarter of its carbon reduction target. It is already cutting energy bills across Europe and is expected to trigger over 800,000 new jobs in manufacturing, wholesale, retail and installation.

And consumer associations say products are also getting better as a result.

What can be done to improve Ecodesign?

How to dodge Eurosceptic attacks

The Eurosceptic press has attacked EU standards in recent years. Driven by politics more than any serious criticism, there are numerous reasons to ignore the hyperbole. But the attacks have had a disproportionate chilling effect on the European Commission and are partly to blame for the delays in the decision making process.

Ill-founded and highly-politicised criticism is slowing down efforts to make products more efficient. At stake is Europe’s transition to a low carbon and resilient economy in the interest of all EU citizens.

Beyond energy: the need for resource efficiency standards

Every day we buy products that don’t last as long as they should due to lack of specific regulation for manufactures. This is getting annoyingly expensive for consumers and is depleting the world of finite resources.

Ecodesign has the potential to increase durability, reparability, recyclability and reduce toxicity of products. Eighty percent of the environmental impacts of products are actually determined at design stage, according to the European Commission.

A number of products covered by the Ecodesign directive already benefit from resource efficiency standards such as durability of motors and hose of vacuum cleaner and water efficiency of washing machine.

EU and national policy makers should extend durability, reparability and recyclability standards to all products covered by the Ecodesign directive in order to remove from the market the most wasteful and inefficient products.

A lengthy decision making process

The decision making process in this area is too slow and often subject to delays. It can take up to eight years before requirements enter into force. For example, a Working Plan for boilers was adopted in 2006 but a regulation was only approved in 2013.

Throughout this lengthy process the agreed requirements risk becoming no longer relevant as a result of fast-changing technology and market developments.

Campaigners have called for clearer deadlines for the requirements approval and intermediary steps such as consultations and votes. This is the case in the US, where the Department of Energy needs to meet strict deadlines.

Poor enforcement across member states

It is estimated that 10% of the expected savings are lost due to non-compliant products and poor market surveillance.

This is a result of poor coordination and lack of resources among national authorities in charge of surveillance operations in member states.

Businesses, market experts and civil society have called for better surveillance and coordination between national and EU authorities.