Ecodesign and Energy Labelling legislation are key contributors in supporting the Commission's overarching priority to strengthen Europe’s competitiveness and boost job creation and economic growth. Their effect can be felt in the Energy Union objectives, the transition to a Circular Economy, the internal market functioning and the environment. They also drive investment and innovation and save money for consumers.
The Methodology for Ecodesign of Energy-related Products (MEErP henceforth) consists of a techno-economic-environmental assessment of a specific product group. This assessment is the main analytical step in the potential implementation of the Ecodesign Directive on a specific product group.
Concerning the identification and the level of stringency of the (potential) Ecodesign requirements for a certain product group, the most important part of the analysis takes place within the techno-economic assessment, at the point when the life cycle cost curve is determined, and the Least Life Cycle Cost (LLCC henceforth) is defined. On the basis of the LLCC and related product environmental impact, Ecodesign requirements for a certain product can be set, aiming to gradually – and sustainably - push the market towards the LLCC. Once the requirements are defined, it is left to individual manufacturers to choose how, and with which technologies, to produce a compliant product (in line with the principle of technological neutrality). The LLCC is unique to each product category, and it provides the optimum level from a regulatory perspective because it minimises the total cost of ownership for the consumer and it pushes all manufacturers, at the same time, to make improvements to their products with existing technologies.
The MEErP is open, iterative, transparent, and utilises a tool (the EcoReport tool) that is free at the point of use, and is simple to use whilst being sufficiently complex/ complete in order to capture the main inputs and outputs at product specific level. The EcoReport is a streamlined life-cycle based tool that is openly available, with no presumption or requirement of prior purchase of a commercially-available Life Cycle Assessment package.
In 2013, the MEErP was evaluated and considered fit for purpose in the decision-making process of the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling legislative framework. A new update is now needed, in particular a) to update, when and where necessary, some of the data used in the analysis and b) to ensure that the MEErP is still fit for its purpose, in line with the policy developments of the last years. Within this framework, several areas of analysis (together with, in some cases, potential solutions/approaches) have been identified in the course of the last years, namely:
- Need for the update of the environmental impact data contained in the EcoReport tool, as well as an evaluation of the relevance of the various input categories/indicators with regard to material efficiency.
- Relevance for a more systematic inclusion of material efficiency aspects in the modelling of the MEErP. These aspects have been assessed in recent eco-design and energy labelling preparatory studies, although without having as reference a harmonised and systematic methodology. This could be attained, in particular, by systematically including two separate but equally important aspects in the construction of the LLCC curve:
- Systematic inclusion (when relevant for the specific product group under analysis) of design options related to material efficiency aspects (such as a) increased reparability, b) increased durability, c) increased recyclability or d) aimed at promoting the reuse of secondary raw materials and/or components).
- Systematic inclusion of lifetime in the MEErP modelling of the LLCC. In order to properly analyse and model circular economy requirements, product lifetime must be taken into account. In practical terms, following this approach would imply that an 'equivalent annual cost' (for a design option) should be calculated. With the use of the 'equivalent annual cost' it is possible to properly compare design options with different (expected) lifetimes, such as, for example, the base case (i.e. the average EU product), compared to a second product with increased durability (e.g. thanks to the higher quality of its components) and a third product with higher lifetime than the base case as a result of its improved design for reparability (see the previous point).
- Relevance of the development of the Product Environmental Footprint method (data and approach, e.g. for modelling impacts, normalising and weighting results) and related Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules to the MEErP and the EcoReport tool for assessing life cycle impacts both for developing the base case and the design options.
- Relevance for a more systematic inclusion of design options:
- aimed at reducing the carbon and environmental footprint of the product.
- (potentially linked to the previous point) compliant with generic ecodesign requirements based on the ecological profile of the product.
- Relevance of a more systematic inclusion of societal life cycle costs (direct environmental costs, externalities and other indirect costs) in the MEErP.
- Need for a more refined method for the evaluation of the economic impacts (e.g. impacts on employment) in Task 7 of the MEErP.