Energy consumption by boilers and water heaters is responsible for 25% of all CO2 emissions in the EU, roughly the same share as emissions from road transport. In March 2013, the European Union finally approved minimum energy efficiency regulations on boilers and water heaters after a seven-year process.
The projected savings from these regulations – totalling 136 million tonnes of CO2 emissions (56 million tonnes of oil equivalent) annually in 2020 – is equivalent to taking 65 million cars off the road. Another way of looking at this: it’s the same as the energy consumption of 100 million EU households.
Efficiency Standards a Long-Standing ECF Priority
Supporting stringent energy efficiency standards and labelling requirements for the most energy-consuming products has been a priority for the European Climate Foundation since its founding in 2008. The implementation process for the EU’s Ecodesign Directive for Energy-Using Products had just been established the previous year, with boilers and water heaters identified as the product group with the most energy savings potential (out of a list of 40 products that the European Commission sought to regulate).
One of ECF’s earliest grantees was the European Environmental Citizens’ Organisation for Standardisation (ECOS), an NGO with a part-time expert funded by the European Commission and environmental NGOs to engage in the highly technical and time-intensive consultation process. Given the need to counter heavy industry lobbying, our funding enabled ECOS to increase its efforts with additional staff and consultants and build a coordinated NGO advocacy campaign targeting the EC and Member States, which must approve final regulations recommended by the Commission.
Although boilers and water heaters – despite being hidden away in the dark corners of homes, offices and industrial facilities – were an obvious target for regulation, this was not an easy win as a number of complex factors hindered the regulatory process. Discussions lingered on for years, hampered by controversies on technical details relating to the phase-out of the most inefficient models, such as non-condensing boilers, and an energy label that allows comparison across fuels and heating technologies.
Getting the Process Moving
To kick-start the stalled process, ECF supported the launch of the Coolproducts campaign of EU and national NGOs in 2009. Coordinated by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the campaign aims to raise the political profile and build media awareness of the Ecodesign Directive and the energy savings potential of all the products regulated it. At the same time, Coolproducts members, such as ECOS and INFORSE-Europe, provided technical input in the consultation process to resolve controversies while ensuring a decent level of ambition in the final proposed regulation.
Due to a last-minute lobbying attempt by the conventional boiler industry to weaken the energy label, ECOS and the EEB pressured Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger to hold a consultation where 21 other stakeholders supported the Coolproducts campaign position. This safeguarded the integrity of the energy label in the final vote on the regulation – a single energy label based on primary energy, thus ensuring comparability across energy sources and promoting the best heating solutions.