As things stand - unless the European Parliament and Council amend the European Commission’s proposal for a recast of the energy efficiency directive (EED) - energy-guzzling electric heaters bearing the labels E and F - banned from the market since 26 September 2017 because of their poor energy performance - will qualify as D and could appear on shelves again.
Other electric heaters could be bumped into a higher labelling class without any actual improvement in their performance. This could mislead consumers about their electricity consumption and thus overall costs, and is not an effective way to increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions.
The EED recast proposal assumes that on average electricity in the EU is produced more efficiently than is currently the case, and the Commission proposes that, to be consistent, the same assumption should be made for related legislation, such as eco-design for space and water heaters, which has a knock-on effect on energy labelling.
The problem with the proposal lies in the so-called primary energy factor (PEF) for electricity, the ratio between primary and final energy consumption.
The PEF should be low if the electricity that is used in an appliance has been produced efficiently, that is with little loss between energy input and output along electricity production value chain.
The PEF is located in Annex IV of the EED, and it is proposed that it be lowered from 2.5 to 2.0. It is assumed that on average, electricity production in the EU has improved by 20 per cent.
However, this is not yet the case and a PEF of 2.26 would come closest to the current reality and would help prevent any distorting effect on energy labelling.
Apart from the value issue, there is general agreement among stakeholders, including the Commission’s consultants, that the methodology used to calculate the PEF should be applied with care.
For this reason, the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) has just begun a project to develop a European standard.
A number of organisations, including AEBIOM (biomass), COGEN, EFIEES (intelligent energy efficiency services), EGEC (geothermal), ESTIF (solar thermal) and Eurogas, have warned that consumers might be misled.
Organisations representing the electricity sector have been lobbying for a low primary energy factor while several sectors such as EHI (heating industry) have urged that the proposed PEF is not applied to energy labelling.
However, while the debate and work on the PEF rages on, further progress in energy efficiency can be made.
Simply exchanging a traditional oil heater for a modern condensing gas heater (A-label) brings energy efficiency gains of up to 65 per cent. The latter also combines well with solar panels and electric heat pumps whose performance varies with the weather, forming very cost-efficient solutions.
There is still a lot of low-hanging fruit, and it is not always necessary to invest in the latest, expensive technology to make a big difference.