Is the EU trying to ban kettles, vacuums and hair dryers?

It’s likely that you’ve seen a host of UK media publications having a poke at the EU for wanting to “ban dozens of high-wattage household electrical appliances” from hair dryers to smartphones. But with 95% of Brits in favour of tougher energy standards, what’s the problem?  

The story about power ratings comes from EU legislation on Ecodesign. The ‘Ecodesign’ scheme aims to increase energy efficiency of our products and is part of ‘Europe 2020’ the EU’s jobs and growth strategy.  Europe 2020 was launched in 2010 to create the conditions for ‘smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.’ It has five headline targets for the EU to achieve by the end of 2020. These cover employment; research and development; climate/energy; education; social inclusion and poverty reduction. It’s safe to say these are all ideologies that sound good.

The Ecodesign falls into this scheme as it is aims at eliminating the least performing products, and improving the environmental performance of products sold across the EU, which would both reduce energy consumption and increase innovation.

The European Commission (The EU’s executive body) is currently in the process of developing a new working plan for the scheme. As part of the development of this plan, it commissioned researchers to narrow the options to about 20 ‘priority product groups’. Once identified, each type of product and the potential for regulation will be investigated further. Some priority groups are common household appliances, such as kettles – which the media has been so quick to report on – others are not, like escalators.

So what’s the benefit? Well, there is good reasoning behind these energy efficiency measures. It is estimated that they will curb global warming by reducing carbon emissions by 7% below 2010 levels. Furthermore consumers could make a saving of around £370 per household per year; so it’s no surprise that in an official poll 95% of Brits were in favour of tougher energy standards.

These measures will also help the innovation of new, better performing products in the EU which would create greener jobs. It is estimated that, together with the Energy Labelling Directive, it will generate €54 billion in extra revenue by 2020 and help create 800,000 jobs across the EU including the UK.

My colleagues and I in the Greens/EFA group of the European Parliament support these measures, with Claude Turmes, Greens/EFA MEP and member of the Industry, research and energy committee, saying:

“It is estimated that labelling and ecodesign rules could save the equivalent of Italy’s annual energy consumption by 2020. The Commission’s proposal is a good starting point to ensure the new system is consumer-friendly.”