Europe has made an impressive step forward in energy efficiency over the past years, mainly thanks to policy and regulation. The implementation of #Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives is estimated to save 175 Mtoe primary energy per year by 2020, which corresponds to 19% savings with respect to business-as-usual energy use for those products. Thanks to this, for example on motor efficiency, the EU is now a global front-runner, whereas ten years ago it was still lagging behind the US. But at the same time, the aim should be to realize all energy efficiency measures that are cost-effective from a lifecycle point of view. To achieve this goal, a lot of work still remains to be done.
The term ‘zero energy’ sounds contradictory. We need energy to produce materials, then construct, operate and renovate or demolish buildings. Once a building is occupied, we need energy for heating, cooling, hot water, cooking, and we use electricity for a myriad of other energy services. And there is a temporal dimension – to produce energy at the time when it is needed.
‘Zero energy’ in its current use does not mean ‘compensating all energy uses related to the building, over its entire lifecycle, at the time when energy is needed’.
The term works well as a commercial label. For regulation, it lacks precision.
Flash Eurobarometer 256 concluded that Europeans overwhelmingly consider the environmental performance of the products they buy. Consumers want ecolabels they can trust and support differential taxation based on environmental performance.
DG Environment has issued another Flash Eurobarometer 367 on the single market for green products in July 2013. This EB focussed more on price and choice architecture for consumers and confirms consumer interest in environmental performance as well as the importance of transparent labels.
Meanwhile, the European Commission is expanding its successful sustainable product policy into the broader theme of circular economy.