Beyond Efficiency – Anchoring Absolute Savings in the Ecodesign Directive and the Energy Labelling Directive

The Directives on Ecodesign and Energy Labelling (EL) aim to reduce the negative environmental impacts of products in the European Union, especially with regard to their energy consumption. A reduction of the absolute energy consumption is necessary to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the EU and to achieve the respective targets for climate protection. The requirements of Ecodesign and EL regulations adopted so far, however, mostly aim at improving energy efficiency. An increase of energy efficiency, which is defined as the ratio between energy use and the resulting utility, does not automatically lead to a reduction of the absolute energy consumption of products.

The study’s objective is to show which approaches the instruments Ecodesign and EL provide to focus more on a reduction of absolute energy consumption. Promising approaches are already practiced in some existing eco-labels.

With regard to Ecodesign requirements the following approaches are presented: progressive energy requirements, energy consumption limits, use of sensors/functions that lead to energy savings, as well as an indirect reduction of energy use during the manufacturing phase, for example by extending the use phase (durability and repairability). As regards the implementation of the EL Directive, the following possibilities are investigated: a progressive design of the energy efficiency classes, consumption limits for “green” label classes, a stronger emphasis on absolute consumption and related label designs (e. g. an additional scale showing absolute consumption). Further, the option to provide information on the label on the amount of energy “embedded” in products through the manufacturing process is briefly discussed.


Laura Spengler