Policies for clean energy

Ecodesign/ErP Directive

The Ecodesign Directive, another important energy transition tool, is the main regulatory instrument for cutting off the products with the worst environmental performance. This essential regulation was initiated throughout Europe; it remains one of the most important tools for reducing demand for new grids and power plants in Germany, thus making it a crucial part of the energy transition.

The 2005 Ecodesign Directive (called the Energy-related Products Directive (ErP) since 2009) has its roots in Brussels and the European Union. It regulates the efficiency of energy-consuming products, with the exception of buildings and cars. The ErP Directive sets minimum standards for many different product categories. It also considers life-cycle assessments for certain products to determine their environmental impact and detect ways to make improvements.

As of 2015, 11 product groups fell under the directive, including consumer electronics, refrigerators, freezers, and electric motors. The directive applies not only to products that use energy themselves (such as computers and boilers), but also to products that affect energy consumption (such as windows and showerheads). Additional directives for individual products are produced and revised in a continuous process. By 2020, the directive is expected to reduce power consumption within the EU by 12 percent compared to the business-as-usual scenario.

There are also European standards for energy labeling. This “efficiency tag” addresses the important market failure based on a lack of information; customers do not readily have the information they need about what energy consumption will cost them if they buy a particular device. The ErP Directive works to remedy that situation.

In this way, the ErP Directive cuts off the products with the lowest performance, whereas the labeling scheme tries to guide demand towards the highest efficiency level by convincing customers to buy the best products.

Specific regulations

Probably the most effective measure was the regulation of standby and off-mode power losses. Appliances on standby used to consume dozens of watts even though they were essentially off from the consumer’s point of view; one example is a television that remains reachable for the remote control. Today, the ErP Directive requires that such devices must not consume more than one watt when on standby, and that amount is to be reduced to 0.5 watts. For consumers, there are no drawbacks. The most well-known directive is the one on domestic lighting, which bans the use of most incandescent bulbs. The lighting product portfolio has changed from incandescent bulbs to compact florescent bulbs and LED lighting.

By 2020, phasing out incandescent light bulbs will result in energy savings across Europe of 39 terawatt-hours, equivalent to the power generation of six old coal power plants. The eco-design regulation for electric motors will even lead to a reduction of 135 terawatt-hours by 2020 – equivalent to 20 coal power plants.

Another successful example is the regulation of vacuum cleaners. Studies found that there was no correlation between electric power and cleaning power. Therefore, a maximum power of 1,600 watts was defined starting in 2014, with a second reduction to 900 watts coming in 2017. The result: a very rapid market reorganization, with more efficient, technologically optimized and more energy-efficient vacuum-cleaners gaining in market share within months.

Such efficiency rules are defined throughout Europe because the EU places great store on the free trade of goods within the common market. The ErP Directive therefore directly applies to Germany and all other EU member states.

Although the ErP Directive was handed down by the EU, it is a crucial part of Germany's Energiewende because it reduces the need for great expansion and new plant construction by reducing energy consumption.