The energy rating system currently used to rate electrical devices could soon be scrapped, because it is misleading consumers and stifling innovation.
Many consumers may be buying A-rated (energy efficiency) devices in the belief that they are getting the most efficient appliances. But the energy label is based on relative values (kWh/litre), which means that large appliances with relatively high energy requirements can still achieve an A-rating.
Energy labels also include overall energy consumption, but consumers have been led to focus on the A-G rating. ‘This encourages manufacturers to make bigger appliances because it is easier to get an A-rating for a large device than a small one,’ according to Brenda Boardman at the UK’s Environmental Change Institute (ECI).
And the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (AMDEA) admits that the labels could be more helpful. The current EU labelling scheme has been a ‘tremendous success’, according to Anne Nistad, associate executive at AMDEA, but she says: ‘We do have concerns about the labelling scheme today as it is not providing sufficient guidance to consumers.’
‘In 1995 before any labels were introduced, nobody thought the energy consumption of different models of appliances varied. Now people do understand that, but they need to become even more sophisticated and start thinking about actual consumption,’ Boardman says.
Increases in the size of electrical appliances is offsetting any gains in improved energy efficiency (see page 21). Boardman advocates replacing the current system, with a simplified version that removes some redundant categories and is also based on absolute energy consumption.
AMDEA is currently in talks with Brussels over plans to overhaul the system. But whether this will be a simple revision or a totally new label is undecided, according to Nistad. The industry would prefer a numerical system. Any revised system is still at least a year away.
‘While at one time there was a genuine range of products from A to G, improvements in the industry have resulted in many categories of goods being entirely A or A+,’ Nistad says. This has reduced any incentive to produce more efficient appliances.