Minimum Standards Increase Energy Efficiency
Legislators can enhance energy efficiency by introducing minimum energy performance standards (MEPS). MEPSs are one of the quickest and most effective means of removing inefficient products, services and practices from the market. As shown in countries like Japan, Australia and New Zealand, requiring minimum energy performance criteria for a product to be sold on a particular country's market will increase the number and variety of energy efficient models available on the market fairly quickly. In order to be successful the MEPS programme should meet certain basic guidelines.
Removing energy-inefficient products and services from the market is an effective way to save money and energy. However, this may require more than just promoting energy efficient solutions since less efficient products, services and buildings may remain price competitive and therefore retain both suppliers and buyers. Legislators need to introduce a required set of minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for each product class, with which a product must comply in order to have access to a particular market.
This prevents new inefficient products from coming onto the market and removes the least energy efficient products from the market. When developing and introducing MEPS programmes the following points are worth considering:
If MEPS are announced with a few years' advanced notice, most suppliers can react within their normal reengineering cycles without major cost implications, as illustrated by Japan?s Top Runner program.
MEPS should promote efficiency levels that ensures a net economic benefit for the buyer of an appliance or building, i.e. the sum total of purchase and running costs of an appliance or building complying with the MEPS should be lower than those for less energy-efficient models or designs.
MEPS should be dynamic, i.e updated at least every four or five years to keep up with the best available technology at any time. Product improvements are spurred on by the pressure of targeted efficiency programmes.
In some cases negotiated agreements can be a basis for MEPS. This is particularly the case in very dynamic markets such as those for electronic entertainment, information and telecommunication equipment. In these cases, appliances are constantly changing and it would take too long to define mandatory minimum norms and measurement standards. However, mandatory requirements can be a fall-back option where progress in meeting MEPS is not satisfactory and may also help in all cases to ensure that information on energy consumption is displayed on the product.
The introduction of MEPS usually results in the removal of the least efficient models form the market. There are also examples of MEPS, announced a few years in advance, which have set standards based on the level of today's most energy efficient models. This is the case with Japan's Top Runner Standards and the 2001 standard for refrigerators in the USA.