Article - Energy Efficiency

Product Energy Efficiency


Washing machine symbolizes product energy efficiency; Quelle: SusanneB

© SusanneB

Framework Regulation on the standardised Europe-wide energy efficiency labelling of products

Colour-coded efficiency scales visualise the energy consumption of products and help customers across Europe to purchase energy-efficient products. They also result in greater competition between different manufacturers, as customers are likely to take a closer look at products’ energy performance before making their choice.

The European Union has defined a uniform European framework for the award of efficiency classes, based on Regulation (EU) 2017/1369 setting a framework for energy labelling of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2017.

The scope of the Regulation basically covers all energy-related products. This applies to household appliances, but also products for commercial applications (e.g. commercial refrigerators) as well as products that do not consume energy themselves, but nonetheless have a significant impact on energy consumption (e.g. insulated windows).

Transposition of the Framework Regulation into German law

The EU Framework Regulation on energy labelling of products was implemented in Germany under the recast Act on Energy Consumption Labelling (in German) and the revised Ordinance on Energy Consumption Labelling (in German). Both the act and the ordinance entered into force on 17 May 2012 (Official Federal Gazette I p. 1070).

The goal of these two implementing measures is to improve the market surveillance of product labelling. This is done by broadening the implementation powers and duties of the Länder in the field of market surveillance in keeping with Regulation (EC) No. 765/2008. Well-functioning market surveillance will guarantee equality of competition among companies and ensure that consumer information is correct.

The European Commission's product-specific legal acts state which specific product groups are required to have an EU energy label. These legal acts also specify when the producers' and distributors' duties become effective for the individual product groups, and which transitional measures apply.

Design of the EU energy label

The EU energy label is limited to seven energy efficiency classes. If warranted by technological progress, three additional classes (A+, A++, A+++) can be added above the scale, which currently ranges from A (more efficient) to G (less efficient).

The uniform Europe-wide energy label is language-neutral. In addition to pictograms indicating the energy efficiency class, it gives consumers information about annual energy consumption and other product specifics, for example, the water consumption and water-extraction efficiency of washing machines.

Product-specific acts at European level

The EU Framework Regulation serves as a basis for product-specific EU regulations. These regulations issued by the European Commission apply throughout the EU, without the need for transposition into national law, and are binding on all distributors and producers. At present, there are 16 groups of products (including standard household devices, TV sets and boilers) for which specific regulations apply. You can access an overview of these regulations and of the product groups currently going through the European Commission procedures on the website of the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM) website (only in German). The most recent regulations apply to solid-fuel boilers and single-room heaters.

Amendment to the EU Energy Labelling Regulation

Some product groups (e.g. washing machines, dishwashers and fridges and freezers) have become much more energy efficient, which is why it became necessary to review the EU Energy Labelling Regulation. Under the old system, many products fall into the highest category (A +++).

Germany successfully advocated during the revision process that the EU return to a labelling system that does without the many ‘plus’ categories, simply using the letters A to G. The most efficient devices available at the time of the reform have been placed in the B category, or lower. The A category and, in the case of highly dynamic product groups, the B category, have been left out to create fresh scope for improvement. The revised Energy Efficiency Labelling Regulation stipulates the procedure and the deadlines for the transition from the A+ to A+++ labels to the new A to G categories.

As of 2019, all products subject to energy labelling will also be included in a dedicated product database. This database will be available to consumers wishing to compare products’ energy efficiency, and to the market surveillance authorities monitoring compliance with the labelling requirements.

Following the political decision on the new energy label of 21 March 2017 and the approval by the European Parliament and the Council in June of the same year, the Energy Labelling Regulation entered into force on 1 August 2017.

EU energy labels for heating systems and boilers

Efficiency labelling is particularly important where heating systems and boilers are concerned. Depending on their energy performance, these devices may be very energy-intensive and cause high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. The EU wants to prevent this and has therefore introduced an energy label for new indoor heating systems and boilers. The label, which has been in use since 26 September 2015, helps consumers choose an energy-efficient device that will also reduce their energy bills.

The labels are based upon the familiar, colour-coded scale ranging from A++ to G and are used to indicate the efficiency classes of the following types of devices:

  • space heaters that generate heat for a central heating system, such as gas boilers, heat pumps and cogeneration units,
  • all combination heaters that also serve as water heaters, and
  • water heaters, including flow heaters and boilers.
  • Labelling requirements now also cover hot water storage tanks with a storage volume of up to 500 litres.

In addition to the energy efficiency category of the device, the label also states its nominal capacity or annual energy consumption, and the amount of noise generated (in decibels). The label used for boilers also provides information on the amount of heat that is lost during storage. The different energy efficiency categories make it easier for consumers to compare and opt for an efficient device. As consumers are increasingly looking for energy efficient products, manufacturers will seek to compete on energy efficiency. This will help reduce Europe’s total energy consumption in a meaningful way. Germany has also introduced a National Energy Efficiency Label for Old Heating Installations. This label, which has been in use since 1 January 2016, is distributed by chimney sweeps free of charge.

National Energy Efficiency Label for Old Heating Installations

The National Energy Efficiency Label for Old Heating Installations is designed to give consumers information about the state of their boiler and encourage them to swap it for a new and energy efficient one. In addition to this, consumers also receive additional information about energy audits and funding available from KfW (Reconstruction Loan Corporation) and the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (BAFA).

Further information

Environmentally sound product design (ecodesign) can play a big role in making products more energy efficient. The EU Ecodesign Directive, which has been in force since 2005, is underpinned by the notion of environmentally sound product design. It states the minimum requirements products must meet. The product-specific regulations on ecodesign issued by the European Commission are all based upon this Directive.

It makes good sense to be as energy efficient as possible. This applies not only to private households, but also to industry, which has a chance to lower the cost of production and, by extension, gain a competitive advantage. The Ecodesign Directive wants to strengthen the market for efficient and environmentally sound products, whilst also harnessing the major potential for improving the energy performance of devices and products.

Product-specific ecodesign regulations

Under the EU Ecodesign Directive, the European Commission draws up product-specific regulations on ecodesign. Industry, consumer and environmental associations and the Member States are also involved in this work. The product-specific regulations resulting from this process stipulate binding minimum requirements for environmentally sound product design. At present, 22 product groups are subject to such implementing regulations.

The Federal Government is always actively involved in the drafting of the regulations and coordinates closely with industry, environmental and consumer associations. The Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing has been commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to organise events for assessing the proposals tabled by the European Commission. The results are then fed back into the process at European level. Across all product groups, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy always argues in favour of solutions that are technology-neutral and environmentally and economically sound.

Market surveillance by the Länder authorities

In Germany, monitoring compliance with ecodesign rules is a task that falls to the market surveillance authorities of the Länder. The exact remit is set out in the German Energy-related Products Act (EVPG) and the Ordinance implementing the Energy-related Products Act, which transpose the provisions of the Ecodesign Directive into national law.
For further information about the EU Ecodesign Directive, please go to National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE).

Nearly 7 million televisions are sold in Germany each year, more than 99 per cent of its approximately 40 million households have a fridge – and there are a host of other electrical appliances which use electricity for many hours each day. There is enormous potential to save energy here – if as many households as possible use particularly low-consumption appliances. In order to achieve this, the National Top Runner Initiative (NTRI) is addressed equally at consumers, retailers and manufacturers of efficient appliances. This is the only way in which energy consumption can be reduced on a long-term basis.

In the NTRI context, the German government wants to see energy-efficient and high-quality appliances (“top runners”) brought to market more quickly, so that market penetration can be accelerated. This can make a crucial contribution to the success of the energy transition, as low-consumption equipment significantly boosts energy efficiency and cuts energy consumption.

Tips for consumers

Whether it’s a fridge or a washing machine: energy-efficient appliances save cash and help to mitigate climate change. The NTRI’s consumer campaign makes it clear that it pays off to buy a modern electrical appliance. A broad range of services and a label tool (in German) help people to find the most energy-efficient equipment.

Support for dealers

The NTRI helps dealers to advertise the added value of energy-efficient products and to promote sales of top runner products.

Good advice from specialist retailers helps customers to understand how energy-efficient products deliver more convenience and pay off. The NTRI offers retailers comprehensive information about the EU energy label, the efficiency of appliances and related benefits. The NTRI’s network of dealers can be used by retailers to share information and questions about energy efficiency and to broaden their expertise.

Motivation for manufacturers

Manufacturers also need to do their bit. They need to continuously develop and enhance technology and provide fresh ideas that will help improve energy efficiency. This is crucial as even though a product may seem extremely efficient today, it may be considered a big energy guzzler tomorrow.

Demand for energy-efficient and high-quality equipment is growing. The NTRI uses networking events and the sharing of ideas to motivate manufacturers to (further) develop new energy-efficient products and thus to position themselves on the market. The Initiative also provides information about new rules and developments in the field of energy efficiency.

Further to this, a series of meetings on product efficiency offers consumers, dealers, manufacturers and other stakeholders the chance to engage in dialogue and spark off new developments. Both manufacturers and dealers benefit from this.

Support network

Representatives of all the important stakeholder groups have signalled their support for the objectives of the National Top Runner Initiative. These groups include the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), the German Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (ZVEI), Bitkom, the German Industry Initiative for Energy Efficiency (DENEFF), the German Retail Trade Association (HDE), the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZBV) and Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (Friends of the Earth Germany). The organisations have issued a joint statement in which they pledge to drive forward the development and sale of energy-efficient products and the energy-efficient use of these products.

This initiative will help to considerably raise energy efficiency and in turn reduce energy consumption, thus making a key contribution to implementing the energy transition. So energy efficiency really does pays off!

Part the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency

The National Top Runner Initiative was launched on 1 January 2016 and is being continuously enhanced in close dialogue with consumers, retailers and manufacturers.

The National Top Runner Initiative is an important element within the Federal Government’s National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE). The Action Plan seeks to reduce primary energy consumption in Germany by 20% by 2020 compared with 2008, and by 50% by 2050.

Further information can be found here (in German).

Further information

  • Article - Energy Efficiency

    Article: National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE): Making more out of energy

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Further information

  • Article - Energy Efficiency

    Article: ‘Germany makes it efficient’

    Open detail view
  • Article - Energy Efficiency

    Article: National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency (NAPE): Making more out of energy

    Open detail view