7.5.3 Energy and Environmental Labels
To create more informed consumers, a number of product labelling programs have
been initiated. At least 11 countries and the European Union have initiated
mandatory or voluntary programmes that have products labelled with descriptions
of their energy performance (Casey-McCabe, 1995). The United States requires
labels on furnaces, water heaters, refrigerators, central and room air conditioners,
clothes washers, dishwashers and lamp ballasts (USDOE, 1996). The European Union
has initiated a programme under the SAVE (Specific Actions for Vigorous Energy
Efficiency) Programme that requires labels for refrigerators and freezers, washing
machines and clothes dryers, and is being phased in for other appliances.
Worldwide, more than 30 products are covered by one or more labelling programme,
including the major energy-using appliances, such as refrigerators, furnaces,
clothes washers and dryers, and ovens. Labelling programmes may be mandatory
or voluntary and comparison or endorsement in type. Comparison labels describe
the performance of a product with others in the same class. Endorsement labels
identify a product that meets a high efficiency standard. Most programmes use
comparison labels, are mandatory, and are operated by government agencies. Only
the United States, Canada, and the European Union also have programmes with
endorsement labels, which may be operated by government agencies or NGOs.
Stakeholder cooperation is illustrated by the window labelling programme of
the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), a coalition of window manufacturers,
governments, utilities, and consumer groups. The labels, which identify the
energy performance of windows, doors and skylights, help consumers select high
performance products in an area of rapid technology change. Manufacturers pay
a fee to have their products tested in NFRC-accredited laboratories. Since 1993,
the NFRC has certified and labelled 12,000 products made by more than 160 manufacturers.
NFRC is working with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
on an internationally recognised testing and labelling programme.
The record of labelling programmes is mixed. The initial U.S. Energy Guide
labels were largely ineffective, because they were difficult to understand,
yet went unchanged for 10 years. The initiation of harmonised energy labels
in Europe was slow--17 years between the initiation and implementation of common
levels for refrigerator-freezers. On the other hand, two years after the initiation
of the Energy Star computer programme, 50 per cent of the computers and 80 per
cent of the printers were meeting its standard. The average power requirements
for personal computers fell from 75-80 watts to 35-45 watts (Duffy, 1996).
The policy objectives of the programmes make a significant difference in its
results, according to a comparison between the U.S. and Thai household appliance
labelling programmes. The objective of the 20-year-old U.S. programme is to
provide customers with information to assist them with their purchasing decisions.
By contrast, the objective of the three-year-old Thai programme is to persuade
customers to buy more efficient appliances that save money and protect the environment,
an objective that is backed by a massive, nation-wide advertising campaign.
Energy efficiency was reported among the top three purchase priorities by 28
per cent of the Thai customers, compared with only 11 per cent of the U.S. customers
(du Pont, 1998).
Since many appliances and other energy using equipment are produced and sold
worldwide, it would be beneficial to have a uniform international labelling
system, rather than separate national systems. The initial move in this direction
might be through regional programmes, such as those being implemented by the
European Union. Multinational efforts are already underway through the ISO to
harmonise the test procedures that underlie national labelling and standard
programs (CADDET, 1997).
An international approach faces formidable obstacles, including the standardisation
of testing protocols, the treatment of different product designs, and non-tariff
barriers. Even so, some international approaches are moving forward. The Green
Lights and Energy Star computer programmes, initiated by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, have been transferred successfully to other countries (Case
Study 2, Chapter 16).