There is a growing controversy for EU strictly controlling the electricity consumption of appliances, claiming that they contribute to climate change. Europeans and climate sceptics are up in arms arguing that there is no truth to this allegation.
There are two answers to this debate. Both answers will take each of the two sides in circumspect.
First, this debate on the immature assumption that Britons have the right to own high-powered vacuums and hairdryers is actually misleading. This directive of the EU was portrayed as just a whim of a Brussels bureaucrat, and not as a result of careful deliberation among experts and industry leaders for almost ten years.
The undue concentration on maximum energy limits ignored the fact that the EU evaluates all items for the efficient ways to lower energy use. Using maximum power ratings will only be resorted to if it is appropriate and can be enforced without adversely affecting performance.
Second, the answer to whether this ruling will reduce emissions is both a yes and a no. The focus of the debate should be more than just high power. Prohibiting high-powered kettles will likely not affect emissions.
However, authorizing only energy efficient appliance such as hairdryers with good drying performance would be a considerable step. If the potential energy saving usage on such products could be realized, on a range of about 20 groups, the savings could be quite large.
One important result could ensue if this ruling is defined judiciously and not overruled. Creating an energy efficient appliance for Europe will require design demands which could initiate research and development in other countries, especially where the item is being imported.
Currently, Europe gets majority of its appliances from China, its biggest exporter. If Chinese manufacturers are required to meet strict European design requirements, it will force China’s domestic lawmakers to enforce the same restrictions.
If this process is extrapolated globally, the savings from energy efficient appliances will appear very impressive because the energy saving usage will dramatically increase.
In reality, this debate is not centred on a certain notion of the British way of life, nor a question of its sovereignty. Britain should not define itself by how powerful its vacuum cleaners are. This debate should focus on whether the law works or not. If all things are considered, it appears that this law really works.
In fact, an independent assessment made by consultants of Ecofys regarding the EU directive says that it has the potential to make energy savings that can range from 400 to 460 TWh per year by 2020.
However, the same analysis says that there is room for improvement and the costs involved in monitoring the scheme could still be reduced.
In addition, the assessment suggests that the focus on particular product groups may be a weak approach of achieving energy efficiency. The analysts instead suggested the example of “product systems” such as whole buildings.
Defining the efficient energy use of whole buildings will force building managers to take on some of the monitoring responsibility and the related cost of monitoring the appliances used.