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U.S. Industry Alerted to European Union Framework for the Setting of Eco-design requirements for Energy Using Products

Report Reprinted from U.S. Foreign Commerical Service, by Gwen B. Lyle

Washington, DC, May 17, 2004

The European Union Framework for the setting of Eco-design requirements for Energy Using Products (EuP) will soon be law. Moving rapidly though the legislative process and wider in scope than any related existing Community legislation, this Directive has the potential to create burdensome requirements for manufacturers of products selected by its “implementing measures” to prove their designs are environmentally efficient. However, if U.S. industry sectors can coordinate with their European counterparts to generate voluntary agreements, they will likely be able to keep from being named as a target of the Directive’s implementing measures.

The European Commission published its Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on establishing a Framework for the Setting of Eco-design Requirements for Energy-Using Products and amending Council Directive 92/42/EEC in August last year, and it may become law at the end of this year or early next year. The Commission feels the need for the Directive to ensure free market access of products across the European market (by superseding similar and possibly conflicting legislation at the Member State level) and to ensure the “security of the energy supply in Europe”, as Europe becomes increasingly dependent on external energy sources.

The Directive is vast in scope and targets all “energy-using products”, which in principle applies to any product down to the component level using energy, whether it be electricity, solid, liquid or gaseous fuels other than means of transportation. The Directive itself does nothing more than set up the legal framework for follow-on “implementing measures” which will name the products, or features of products (such as office equipment in stand-by mode), which will be required to prove their designs throughout the life cycle of the product are environmentally efficient.

Energy using products are targeted for a number of reasons, including a Commission statement that home appliances and office equipment account for over 25% of electricity use, and because of the Commission’s impression that many such products show a poor environmental performance “although they could perform better at little or no cost”. It is also their notion that “regulation is a motor for eco-design activities, in particular amongst SMEs.” Through this Directive, the Commission seeks to force considerations such as the integration of energy conservation factors into the design phase of a product, where they estimate over 80% of all product-related environmental impacts are determined. As with all its environmental legislation, the Commission is convinced that the EuP legislation will lead to innovation, better acceptance by customers and savings to manufacturers in reduced materials and energy costs.

The Commission has declined to suggest any product sectors or features that might be targeted by implementing measures, considering such an announcement decreases the incentive for those not listed to be environmentally proactive. The Commission has stated that they do not intend to produce a large number of implementing measures, and that the criteria for selection will be that the product represent an important volume of sales in the EU market, has an important environmental impact at the European level and should not entail excessive costs.

Implementing measures will be established by the Commission, via a regulatory committee. The committee will establish requirements, define conformity assessment procedures and set dates for implementation. The implementing measures adopted as Directives will require CE marking, and the majority of the conformity assessment should be by self-declaration. European Union programs such as Eco-label and the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) will be directly applicable to proving conformity with an implementing measure, but it remains to be seen if ISO 14001 certification will be considered as well. In the meantime, a mandate was issued this January to the three European standards developing organizations to produce a comprehensive standardization program with a view to generating standards to assist with the realization of the objectives of the draft Directive. The mandate can be found at http://portal.etsi.org/public-interest/Documents/mandates/m341en.pdf

The Commission has promised to involve stakeholders in the development process of implementing measures and it is expected that the EuP Directive will be in compliance with the rules of the World Trade Organization. The Commission has also said the EuP Directive will take into account both existing legislation, such as minimum energy efficiency requirements, and proactive initiatives, such as voluntary agreements, from industry.

Although it would not be feasible for a fragmented sector and companies with existing advanced environmental efficiency programs might not profit from participating in an industry voluntary agreement, it has been confirmed with Commission officials that they would favorably consider voluntary agreements such as those currently covering stand-by energy losses of television and videocassette recorders and energy efficiency of domestic refrigerators and washing machines. By the use of these agreements, an industry sector can likely avoid being named in an implementing measure. American associations whose members export energy using products to the European Union are encouraged to contact their European counterparts to consider cooperating with them to develop such an agreement for their products.

Industry in Europe has expressed its concerns to the Commission in the form of position papers. A link with many European industry comments, as well as further information on EuP can be found at http://www.euractiv.com/cgi-bin/cgint.exe?204&OIDN=2000730&-tt=ened

The text of the Commission's EuP Proposal can be found here.

For more information or assistance please contact Standards Attaché Gwen Lyle at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels Belgium at Gwen.Lyle@mail.doc.gov, telephone 32 2 508-2674.

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