Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.
The Ecodesign Directive
Click! Louis the Light Bulb at your service! Did you know that Europeans waste nearly 20% of their energy through inefficiency? People can be rather careless sometimes, actually. They forget to turn off light bulbs, like me. They leave appliances plugged in all the time without realizing that they consume energy even when they are off. They use older electrical devices that don't meet current standards.
The European Union's Energy 2020 strategy has set a goal of reducing Europe's energy usage by 20% by 2020. This could save Europeans about 100 billion Euros every year and help protect the environment by reducing carbon emissions. As an important tool for reducing energy waste, meeting its goals, saving money, and caring for the environment, the European Union has introduced the Ecodesign Directive.
What is the Ecodesign Directive? You've never heard of it? Well, I'll tell you. The Ecodesign Directive sets standards for product manufacturers to help them design, build, package, transport, distribute, and dispose of their goods in the most energy efficient and environmentally safe way possible. It also gives consumers information about the energy needs of the products they buy and use every day.
The Ecodesign Directive began in 2005 when the Union initiated a study of 14 products to discover their energy pros and cons and figure out how to improve their efficiency. The Directive's first working plan appeared in 2008 and set standards for manufacturers of the studied products. The next year, 2009, the Union revised the Directive to include more products of various classes, and in 2012, a brand new working plan took effect to guide manufacturers of all the products studied so far.
The process of studying products and setting standards, which is carried out by a commission, is quite thorough and detailed. In fact, each product's preparatory study can take two years, for the product is examined from all angles and all the way from its design to its disposal. The studies follow a specific, formal method and are typically split into eight stages. After the study, the commission draws up its findings and creates an implementing measure that suggests design requirements, standards for the product, and manufacturers' obligations, all with an eye toward the maximum energy efficiency.
Then, a consultation forum made up of representatives from Union member states, as well as manufacturers and environmental groups, discusses the proposed suggestions, makes changes as necessary, and prepares a final draft of the implementing measure. The forum does its best to seek the opinions and hear the concerns of all interested parties.
Finally, the implementing measure passes to the regulatory committee composed of representatives from Union member states. The measure is carefully scrutinized yet again and revised as necessary before it is officially accepted and takes effect.
The Products and the Requirements
By now, you might be wondering what kinds of products are covered under the Ecodesign Directive. These products fall into two categories. Energy-using products (EUPs) are those which use, measure, transfer, or generate energy in some way. Light bulbs fall under this category as do many other everyday objects, including televisions, computers, and washing machines. Industrial products, like transformers, find a home in this category, too.
The other product category is for energy-related products (ERPs). These don't use energy, but they can certainly contribute to either its waste or its conservation. Windows, insulation materials, and faucets fall under this category. The Ecodesign Directive does not, however, include transportation products or methods; those are covered under other legislation.
The working plan that took effect in 2012 places a special emphasis on 12 products for study and implementing measures, including steam boilers, power cables, window products, computer servers and data storage equipment, wine storage appliances, thermal insulation, and heating controls. You can see from this list that the Ecodesign Directive covers a wide variety of products, all of which can turn into energy savers if the right kind of standards are in place.
As we learned just a little while ago, the Directive's implementing measure sets certain requirements and standards for each product and obliges manufacturers to follow them. These requirements and standards also fall into two categories. Some are specific requirements that set certain limits for products, like how much energy they use or how much recycled material goes into them. Others are generic requirements that oblige manufacturers to take certain actions, like studying their environmental impact or providing energy information to the Union and to consumers.
In fact, providing information to consumers is another key part of the Ecodesign Directive. Three labels assure consumers that the products they purchase meet the Directive's standards and contribute to its energy efficiency goals.
- The CE mark declares that a product meets the European Union's basic energy standards, and therefore, can be sold throughout the Union.
- The European Union Energy label shows consumers exactly how energy efficient a product is by using an A through G efficiency scale. It also adds further useful information about the product. A label for a washing machine, for instance, might show an A efficiency rating and provide information about energy consumption per cycle, maximum spin speed, water consumption, and noise.
- The Ecolabel flower lets consumers know which products are the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly.
It's time to review! Perhaps by now, you've realized that the European Union's Ecodesign Directive is truly a bright idea. The Ecodesign Directive sets standards for product manufacturers to help them design, build, package, transport, distribute, and dispose of their goods in the most energy efficient and environmentally safe way possible. It also gives consumers information about the energy needs of the products they buy and use every day.
The Ecodesign Directive, which began in 2005, requires a process of careful product studies, detailed implementing measures, input from all interested parties, and a final vote by a regulating committee to make sure that each product is as energy efficient and environmentally friendly as possible. Products covered by the Directive include energy-using products (EUPs), which use, measure, transfer, or generate energy in some way, and energy-related products (ERPs), which don't use energy but contribute to its waste or conservation. The Directive also sets specific or generic requirements that manufacturers are obliged to follow.
Finally, the Ecodesign Directive makes sure that consumers have the information they need. Three labels, the CE mark, the European Union Energy label, and the Ecolabel flower, tell consumers about a product's energy efficiency and environmental impact.
Well, it looks like it's time for me to save some energy of my own. This is Louis the Light Bulb signing off! Click!
After this lesson, you'll be able to:
- Summarize the history of the Ecodesign Directive
- Describe the Directive's process for studying products and its goals
- Identify the products covered under the Ecodesign Directive and the Directive's requirements
- Explain the labels given to products by the Directive
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