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Policy briefing: EU energy label

13 July 2015

The European Commission is expected to publish a proposal for the revision of the EU Energy Labelling Directive during summer 2015. This label has a dual role: informing consumers and encouraging innovation amongst manufacturers.

Many consumers are interested in energy savings when buying products – only 11 per cent are not – but in 41 per cent of cases the energy rating does not influence their decision.

Lack of awareness and understanding are common reasons for not using the EU energy label, and there is good reason for being turned off:

  • By extending the rating system to ‘A+++’, rather than keeping ‘A’ as the highest rating, the EU made the rating system harder to understand.
  • The label does not include running costs, making it difficult for absolute comparisons.
  • Labels are weighted according to size, so do not reflect the extra energy a larger product will use.
  • Many consumers research and make their shortlist for product purchases online,but compliance for online energy labelling lags behind in-store labels.

The EU needs to make the rating easier to understand by making it clearer, more credible and further enabling comparison.

Clear

  • use a closed A-G rating, with no extensions such as A+++
  • specify a short and coordinated transition period
  • work with retailers and national agencies to communicate the changes, and theconsumer benefits

Credible

  • rescale products over time to encourage innovation by suppliers, for example when a specified proportion of products reach the top rating.

Comparable

  • publish open data on product performance to allow development of product comparison sites. These could then incorporate local energy prices to communicate running costs in a more consumer-friendly way.
  • group appliances by function, not fuel or size; a consumer should be able to compare a gas oven with an electric one, and compare a large and medium-sized fridge.

The UK Government needs to address the gaps in compliance and ensure labels are meaningful to consumers. This requires action at local, national and EU levels.