New EU energy label: the end of the A-plus confusion

Status: December 27, 2021 11:50 a.m.

Since March, a new energy label should help with the purchase of economical electrical appliances. The changed EU labeling is well received in times of high energy prices – even if not all retailers have switched yet.

By Jakob Mayr, ARD-Studio Brussels

In spring, the EU Commission presented the new energy label. If a reason was needed to save energy, it was followed in the following months: steadily rising electricity prices show that the choice of economical electrical appliances pays off. The new energy label came at the right time, says the European CDU’s SME expert, Markus Pieper. “The energy price debate is an additional argument that we can offer guidance for these products – and European politics has done something very valuable here,” he says. The Green MEP Jutta Paulus sees it similarly. “Of course, high energy prices are always ‘good’ for efficiency,” she says. “Of course, I would like that, even in times when energy prices are not so high, people think that the cheapest energy is the one that we don’t use at all.”

Jakob Mayr
ARD studio Brussels

Previous A-Plus classes are no longer available

The energy label, which has been in effect since the beginning of March, is intended to help find correspondingly economical devices more easily. It comprises seven levels: from dark green for “particularly energy-saving” to deep red for “comparatively little energy efficient”. The three A-Plus classes (A + to A +++) are no longer available, instead the scale ranges from green A to red G. A stands for particularly energy-saving, G for less economical.

So a lot has changed for consumers who want to buy a new television, dishwasher, fridge or freezer, tumble dryer or washing machine. The new label has also been in effect for lamps since September.

That is basically well received by the citizens, says the Green politician Paulus. “In general, the feedback is that they think it’s good, that there is no longer the A-Plus confusion and that there is room for improvement, that is, that nothing is currently in Class A, that we will have these additional asterisks for the foreseeable future will not need, “said Paul. “What I’ve heard from younger people: It’s great that there’s a QR code on it for more information.” This is on the top right of the new label and leads to a database with detailed product information.

Consumer advocates: It is important to take a closer look

With the new label, no product makes it into the top category. This should increase the pressure on manufacturers to continue working on energy efficiency. The best devices so far have slipped down by up to three classes. The old and the new system are not comparable because the calculation methods have changed.

It is therefore important to take a closer look – also because not all stores and online shops have already switched, says Sylvia Maurer from the European Consumers’ Association. “We are currently in a transition phase where some devices have the new label and others still have the old one. That can be confusing for consumers, and you have to do a lot of research before buying a new one,” she says. “Apparently not all retailers have replaced the label on time. The label is often more difficult for consumers to find or is missing in online shops.”

What’s next?

The previous energy label has become a victim of its own success: Because the manufacturers offered ever more economical devices, most recently pushed into the upper categories. That got confusing. The return to the scale from A to G should change that. But the Greens politician Paulus wants even more: “Our goal must actually be to expand this to as many devices as possible and not only look at the energy consumption in use, but also during production and other environmental aspects can now be specified on a voluntary basis, such as water consumption. ”

The Christian Democrat Pieper contradicts: Medium-sized companies and consumers have only just got used to the new system. From his point of view, there is therefore no need for quick changes. “The label is good as it is. There is also legislation elsewhere, where we pay attention to the repair-friendliness of products,” says Pieper. “We have an ecodesign guideline where certain products are even withdrawn from the market. So we mustn’t overwhelm the economy and consumers with new ideas.”

One thing is certain: the new label will be expanded to include even more product groups. In the next three years there will also be new labels for tumble dryers, ovens, extractor hoods and vacuum cleaners. It will take longer for heaters and boilers.

A new energy label at the right time

Jakob Mayr, ARD Brussels, December 20, 2021 1:22 p.m.

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