To create more informed consumers, a number of product labelling programs have been initiated. At least 11 countries and the European Union have initiated mandatory or voluntary programmes that have products labelled with descriptions of their energy performance (Casey-McCabe, 1995). The United States requires labels on furnaces, water heaters, refrigerators, central and room air conditioners, clothes washers, dishwashers and lamp ballasts (USDOE, 1996). The European Union has initiated a programme under the SAVE (Specific Actions for Vigorous Energy Efficiency) Programme that requires labels for refrigerators and freezers, washing machines and clothes dryers, and is being phased in for other appliances.
Worldwide, more than 30 products are covered by one or more labelling programme, including the major energy-using appliances, such as refrigerators, furnaces, clothes washers and dryers, and ovens. Labelling programmes may be mandatory or voluntary and comparison or endorsement in type. Comparison labels describe the performance of a product with others in the same class. Endorsement labels identify a product that meets a high efficiency standard. Most programmes use comparison labels, are mandatory, and are operated by government agencies. Only the United States, Canada, and the European Union also have programmes with endorsement labels, which may be operated by government agencies or NGOs.
Stakeholder cooperation is illustrated by the window labelling programme of the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC), a coalition of window manufacturers, governments, utilities, and consumer groups. The labels, which identify the energy performance of windows, doors and skylights, help consumers select high performance products in an area of rapid technology change. Manufacturers pay a fee to have their products tested in NFRC-accredited laboratories. Since 1993, the NFRC has certified and labelled 12,000 products made by more than 160 manufacturers. NFRC is working with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) on an internationally recognised testing and labelling programme.
The record of labelling programmes is mixed. The initial U.S. Energy Guide labels were largely ineffective, because they were difficult to understand, yet went unchanged for 10 years. The initiation of harmonised energy labels in Europe was slow--17 years between the initiation and implementation of common levels for refrigerator-freezers. On the other hand, two years after the initiation of the Energy Star computer programme, 50 per cent of the computers and 80 per cent of the printers were meeting its standard. The average power requirements for personal computers fell from 75-80 watts to 35-45 watts (Duffy, 1996).
The policy objectives of the programmes make a significant difference in its results, according to a comparison between the U.S. and Thai household appliance labelling programmes. The objective of the 20-year-old U.S. programme is to provide customers with information to assist them with their purchasing decisions. By contrast, the objective of the three-year-old Thai programme is to persuade customers to buy more efficient appliances that save money and protect the environment, an objective that is backed by a massive, nation-wide advertising campaign. Energy efficiency was reported among the top three purchase priorities by 28 per cent of the Thai customers, compared with only 11 per cent of the U.S. customers (du Pont, 1998).
Since many appliances and other energy using equipment are produced and sold worldwide, it would be beneficial to have a uniform international labelling system, rather than separate national systems. The initial move in this direction might be through regional programmes, such as those being implemented by the European Union. Multinational efforts are already underway through the ISO to harmonise the test procedures that underlie national labelling and standard programs (CADDET, 1997).
An international approach faces formidable obstacles, including the standardisation of testing protocols, the treatment of different product designs, and non-tariff barriers. Even so, some international approaches are moving forward. The Green Lights and Energy Star computer programmes, initiated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have been transferred successfully to other countries (Case Study 2, Chapter 16).
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