Are Energy Efficiency Ratings Helping to Reduce Energy Consumption?

by JP Kiefer

The institute for Environmental Decisions in Zurich, Switzerland researched the effect that the energy efficiency ratings displayed on appliances in the European Union have on helping consumers to conserve energy. Since 2010, the European Union has standardized an energy label for more than 10 product categories, allowing each product to be rated with a letter ranging up to an A+++ and down to a D. While other information is displayed alongside the letter grade of each product, members of the Institute for Environmental Decisions feared that consumers did not know how to interpret the number of kWh used per year by a product, and that they instead focused only on the arbitrary letter grade. The institute describes an “energy efficiency fallacy” in which consumers assume that a high-energy efficiency rating automatically implies low energy consumption. This could be a problem if consumers unnecessarily buy larger versions of a product- say a large television- because it has the same energy rating as a smaller television, despite using substantially more energy. Consumers also might be more willing to leave appliances on when not in use if it is believed the electronics are energy efficient. Research suggests that while consumers are willing to pay more money for appliances with higher energy efficiency ratings, there is little correlation between a consumer’s willingness to purchase an energy efficient appliance and their attitude towards other sustainable behavior. Continue reading