In the European Union, residential use of energy is responsible for the emissions of 1 ton of CO2 equivalent per person and per year. A large share of these emissions comes from the energy use of do- mestic appliances such as electric equipment (televisions, fridges, washing machines…) and heating and cooling products. The EU Ecodesign directive (adopted in 2005) is supposed to address the environmental impacts of these products by setting mandatory requirements on all products put on the EU market. 

These minimum requirements are a key instrument to steer the market towards more energy efficient products. It is essential that the level of ambition is sufficient not to waste cost-effective energy saving opportunities. This study was commissioned by the environmental NGOs SNM and BUND to assess to what extent the current implementation of the Ecodesign directive can be expected to reach this objective.

A first analysis using data from 2007 on the energy use and life-cycle costs of products shows that considerable energy savings are not only feasible, but also cost-effective. Top energy efficient products avail- able on the market may often seem too expensive to purchase and with a long pay-back time.

However, even while choosing to purchase the top performing products on the market, a European household would on the whole still save money compared to the base case. In comparison, the assessment of the first adopted Ecodesign imple- menting measures and those in the pipeline shows that the regula- tory ambition is below these top levels: the minimum requirements imposed on products do not grasp all the cost-effective savings.

Halfway through the adoption of the first list of Ecodesign implement- ing measures, this assessment shows that the bar can, and must be raised if the directive is to deliver maximised energy savings. The technology is already available and increasingly affordable for Euro- pean consumers. In order to overcome the flawed price signals sent by cheap, inefficient products, the European legislators should adopt more ambitious requirements.

Download the full report here.

Download a summary here.


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With the support of thr European Union (LIFE Programme and European COmmission). This work reflects the author's views and does not commit donors.