The EU operates through a hybrid system of supranational independent institutions and intergovernmental decisions negotiated by the member states. The general political direction and priorities of the EU are defined by the European Council, though it lacks the power to pass laws. Decision-making procedures of the EU involve three main institutions: the European Parliament, which represents and is directly elected by EU citizens; the Council of the European Union, which represents individual member states; and the European Commission, which seeks to uphold the interests of the EU as a whole.
The EU has developed a single market through a standardized system of laws which apply in all member states. It ensures the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital; enacts legislation in justice and home affairs; and maintains common policies on various domains, including energy efficiency.
Standards are developed through the Ecodesign Implementing Measures, which prioritize product categories for preparatory studies and consultations before a measure is adopted. The EU Energy Label is a mandatory comparative label that rates products by energy efficiency class from A to G on the label, with A representing the most energy efficient and G the least efficient. Recently, additional grades were added to the top of the efficiency scale for products where successful market transformation programs have contributed to widespread improvements in efficiency.
The European Commission (EC) is the executive body responsible for energy policy across the European economic zone. However, several major bodies play a role in the legislative process.
This website highlights the differences between the European Council, the Council of the European Union and the Council of Europe.
Legislative S&L History
European common policies for energy efficiency stem from two directives passed by the European Council and European Parliament: the Ecodesign of Energy-related Products Directive 2009/125/EC and the Energy Labeling Directive 2010/30/EU. These directives define the legislative framework for the EU Energy Labeling and Standards programs.
S&L Regulatory Process
Priority products to be addressed by Ecodesign Implementing Measures (IM) are identified in the European Commission’s three-year Ecodesign Working Plans. The European Commission then addresses the designated products at their discretion, setting in motion a three to five year process for Implementing Measure and test procedure adoption.
Source: Hans Paul Siderus, The ecodesign and energy labeling process – challenges and solutions, 2012.
The first step of the regulatory procedure is a Preparatory Study which usually lasts 12-24 months, including the stakeholder consultation process, depending on the complexity of the products being addressed. Depending on the conclusions of the Preparatory Study, the Commission can propose a Working Document on Ecodesign and/or energy labeling policy options to the Consultation Forum, consisting of Member States’ representatives and all interested stakeholders concerned with the products in question. Following the stakeholder consultation and development of Impact Assessments, the working document must then go through the European Commission’s Inter-Service Consultation process for approval by other Directorate Generals.
Ecodesign measures currently follow the comitology procedure: once a draft Ecodesign IM has been agreed internally, it is voted on by the Ecodesign Regulatory Committee and is then sent to the European Parliament and the Council for scrutiny, before being translated into all languages of the European Union and published in the Official Journal of the European Union.
Labelling regulations are adopted as delegated acts. The comitology procedure is replaced by a new procedure in which the Regulatory Committee is omitted but stakeholders still discuss the proposals in Consultation Forum. After Consultation Forum, the Commission adopts the delegated acts. However, they can still be rejected by the European Parliament or the Council within two months after the adoption. The delegated acts are directly binding in all EU Member States after the entry into force.
Sources: eceee and the European Commission
Ecodesign requirements generally apply in several tiers, with more stringent requirements set out for future years. Additionally, to keep pace with technological progress, the European Commission is directed to review regulations within five years after their entry into force. A summary of Ecodesign legislation can be found here.
Energy labeling regulations are adopted in parallel with Ecodesign regulations and generally enter into force one year after their publication in the Official Journal. The Energy Labelling Regulations set out: the mandatory product specific Energy Label; requirements for both dealers and suppliers (or retailers and manufacturers); and requirements to include the energy label in any advertising materials. A summary of Energy Labelling legislation can be found here.
Alternative self-regulation by the industry, in the form of Voluntary Agreements, can also be agreed under the Ecodesign Directive, if they are likely to deliver the policy objectives faster or in a more cost-effective manner compared to mandatory requirements. They also allow for flexibility to adapt to technological options and market sensitivities. The Commission is currently considering Voluntary Agreements for Complex Set Top Boxes and Imaging Equipment.
While Member States must adopt and implement the overarching Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Framework Directives, the product specific Ecodesign Implementing Measures and Energy Labelling Delegated Acts are directly applicable in each Member State.
Additionally, market surveillance and enforcement of standards and labels is the responsibility of the member state governments.