Labels and Certification Encourages Efficiency





Investors, sellers, users and consumers often lack impartial information on the economic advantages of energy-efficient buildings and equipment. Legislators can help to provide such information by requiring energy labeling of appliances and energy certification of buildings, which are two information tools that have proven to be very effective, particularly when accompanied by public awareness campaigns.


The idea: 

Legislators can help provide impartial information on the economic advantages energy efficient appliances and buildings by requiring the use of two particularly effective information tools, i.e. energy labeling and energy certification. Both labels and certificates act as a quality mark and enable consumers and sellers to easily distinguish energy-efficient products or buildings from those that are less efficient.


Energy-efficiency labels are informative labels affixed to manufactured products in order to describe that product's energy performance. This information is usually in the form of energy use, efficiency, or energy cost - designed to give consumers the data necessary to make informed purchases. Energy certification on the other hand assesses the energy efficiency of buildings. Energy efficiency certificates provide owners, prospective buyers, and tenants with information on a building's energy characteristics.


Governments and legislators should ensure that consumers and other market participants know about the existence and the meaning of any particular label or certificate. It may be necessary to develop public awareness campaigns to publicize the label and to inform about the potentials and benefits of energy efficiency. Such campaigns should target not only consumers, but also professionals such as retail salespersons in appliance shops, architects, and installation contractors.


In order to ensure that policy-makers themselves are informed it might be worth considering the establishment of a National Energy Bureau that can ensure that national statistics, plans and policy proposals are made readily available for policy makers, consumers, investors etc. Web-based databases of energy-efficient appliances and equipment may also be an important tool for this for disseminating efficiency information about products and appliances.

Labelling for efficiency in cars

Labelling domestic appliances such as refrigerators and heaters with information about fuel consumption has proven an effective means of promoting energy-efficiency among both manufacturers and consumers. Road transport poses one of the greatest challenges for energy efficiency today, and parliaments and governments could develop labelling programs to display the fuel consumption statistics of new vehicles. The main current examples of fuel consumption labelling come from the United States, Europe and Australia.

There are two important things to remember when developing fuel consumption labelling programmes. The first is that different road conditions significantly increase fuel consumption compared to test conditions. In current US legislation two fuel consumption figures are displayed - one for city conditions, and one for highway conditions - calculated by discounting the figure for test conditions by 10% and 22% respectively. An overall consumption figure is then calculated based on an assumption that the vehicle will be used 55% under city conditions and 45% under highway conditions.

The second important thing is to prescribe in legislation the exact form the label should take. The label should be designed carefully to disclose all relevant information in an easy to understand way and to avoid other data such as price, optional equipment and other information that may detract attention from the fuel consumption figures. The most effective form of label would simply consist of fuel consumption information, with separate figures for city and highway consumption.

A study from the Austrian Energy Agency estimates that the EU fuel-efficiency labelling program will result in 4-5 % lower fuel consumption. Additional measures introduced in Australia and the EU have further enhanced the effects of the label. These include information on efficient cars and how to drive in an energy-efficient manner as well as information on factors that increase fuel consumption, such as low tyre pressure and driving with excessive speed.

Requiring manufacturers to make reference to fuel consumption statistics in their advertising campaigns could also help to raise public awareness about fuel efficiency, and help to make fuel efficiency an important purchasing criteria, ranking it alongside other attributes promoted in advertising - such as appearance.