Ecodesign and Britain’s referendum on membership in the EU

New rules could save eight million tonnes of oil and 10 million tonnes of CO2 – but Leave campaigners ignore these benefits when attacking EU efficiency standards, argues Andrew Warren, friend of EiD and Chairman of the British Energy Efficiency Federation, on the Business Green website. While you may not be directly affected by the referendum, this is a fascinating and bewildering story unfolding in the UK.


Anti-European obsession with kettles and toasters is distorting the energy efficiency debate

The European Commission’s plan of action for the next round of ecodesign and energy labeling regulation of energy consuming equipment has been deliberately delayed, allegedly due to the forthcoming UK referendum on membership of the European Union.

The long list of possible product energy efficiency measures, originally announced in 2014 to be under consideration between 2015 and 2017, could be delivering energy savings equivalent to eight million tons of oil each year. By 2030 they have the potential to cut overall carbon dioxide emissions by 10 million tonnes.

Amongst the delayed measures are regulations covering toasters and kettles. Research for the EC by consultancy Deloittes concluded new eco design and labeling rules for kettles could save up to 24 per cent of current energy consumption, and would “not result in excessive costs to manufacturers or consumers”. Nearly 17 per cent of energy could be saved through increased regulation of toasters.

Whilst the Commission is officially “still reflecting” upon the work programme through to 2017, this has not stopped several British newspapers hostile to the UK remaining in Europe from seeking to publicise the implications of such proposals – even before they are officially made. Similar scare stories are also being created regarding the likely market disruption caused by changed regulations covering hair dryers.

Just last Thursday the Daily Express splashed across its front-page the following verbatim headline: Now EU Fat Cats (sic) “CRACK DOWN on KETTLES and TOASTERS in Britain amid avalanche of regulation.”

The anti-European Union campaign’s arguments are cited at length. Seeking to eliminate the worst gas-guzzling artefacts and provide consumers with A to G energy performance labels is described as an “attack on Britain” – the inference presumably being that more energy efficient equipment would only be required in Britain (on this basis perhaps not even in Northern Ireland?), rather than more accurately in all 28 Member States. Plus both Norway and Switzerland – although as non-EU members, nobody in such countries can have any say about the products affected. Any more than UK manufacturers would, were the UK to quit the EU after June 23.

Nonetheless Matthew Elliott, the CEO of Vote Leave, is quoted by the Express, warning apocalyptically that: “If we vote Remain, we will be powerless to prevent an avalanche of EU regulation that Brussels is delaying until after the referendum.”

In contrast, having participated in any number of these lengthy product standard negotiating sessions, my observation has been that – far from powerless – UK interests tend actually to be rather more vocally represented than those of any other nation. We would of course be excluded entirely from the negotiations were Vote Leave to prevail – although all our products sold into the European Single market would have to comply with the standards we would have no say in setting.

But more worrying is the bland presumption that any and all such regulations are without purpose. The anti-Europeans should at any rate be honest enough to admit that the logic of their anti-regulatory dogma is that they could not care less about losing the energy savings equivalent to eight million tons of oil each year. Nor eliminating the potential to cut overall carbon dioxide emissions by 10 million tonnes.

Nonetheless the fantasy world of the Brexit camp continues.

For instance, the UKIP MEP David Coburn received much tabloid coverage for his view that his new toaster didn’t appear to be working as well as its predecessor. He claimed he was getting complaints from “all of my constituents” about the “peely-wally machines”.

His toaster will be one of the issues Coburn is confident will help “win back British sovereignty” in 23 June’s referendum – even though it is as yet wholly unaffected by any eco-design requirements.

“The entire European campaign is central to the fact that the Scottish and UK parliaments don’t have any power,” the MEP told the Sunday Express. “I want to get power back to Westminster and Holyrood, then we can get some proper toasters.

“Don’t you know about these EU toasters? They’ve turned them all down and that’s why you can’t get decent toast,” he raged. “My old toaster seemed to be powered by the Torness nuclear reactor and this one is powered by some kind of EU windmill.”

All three product categories (toasters, kettles and hairdryers) were included in a long list of possible products under consideration published back in 2014. Amongst other energy-using items under consideration for “extreme measures”, as the Europhobes put it, are heated greenhouses, power tools, aquarium lights and filters, gym equipment, mixers, rice cookers, blenders and deep fat fryers. The battle over EU energy efficiency standards is about to get a lot wider.

4 thoughts on “Ecodesign and Britain’s referendum on membership in the EU

  1. How can a kettle which converts 100% electric energy into 100% hot water be made more efficient?

    How much percent of the average energy coonsumption per person per day would such a miraculous kettle save (in KwH per person in the EU)?

    1. I have received two responses from colleagues. I hope these help.

      First: The issue is the efficiency of converting electricity into hot water. Depending on the design and the components used (e.g. time to switch off after water boils, efficiency of heating element, thermal mass), this can be more or less efficient.

      Second from Andrew Warren, author of the post: It can all be found in the Deloittes report I cite in my article, which I am sure the Commission can provide a link to.

      I trust this answers your concern.

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