National EESL programs have been in existence since the 1970s and have grown since this date, so that now EESL programs operate in more than 80 countries around the world and apply to more than 50 different types of appliances and equipment in the commercial, industrial and residential sectors. While the design and coverage of EESL programs vary according to national circumstances, they provide the cornerstone of most national energy and climate change mitigation programs.
Typically, EESL programs use one or more of the following complementary tools to improve the energy efficiency performance of appliances and equipment:
- Energy labels enable consumers to make an informed choice at the point of purchase, either by showing the comparative performance of all appliances (rating labels) or by identifying the best-in-class products (endorsement labels).
- Minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) provide a level playing field in competitive markets by removing the worst performing products without diminishing consumer choice.
This 4E report, first published in 2015 and then updated in 2016, summarises the recorded achievements of EESL programs in 20 countries, and covers more than 25 different product types, which are amongst the longest running and most widely adopted type of national energy efficiency program.
Research for a new update to this report was launched in late 2020 with the IEA, with the aim of supporting energy efficiency initiatives for COP26.
Findings from 2016
Based on evidence from a wide cross-section of countries with EESL programs, the energy efficiency of major appliances in these countries have increased at more than three times the underlying rate of technology improvement.
One-off improvements of more than 30% have been observed when new EESL programs have been first introduced to a market where few energy efficiency programs had existed previously.
These substantial efficiency improvements for individual appliances and equipment have translated to national energy savings and reductions in CO2 emissions. The most mature national EESL programs covering a broad range of products are estimated to save between 10% and 25% of national or relevant sectoral energy consumption.
In all of the EESL programs reviewed, the national benefits outweighed the additional costs by a ratio of at least 3 to 1, i.e. EESL programs deliver energy and CO2 reductions while also reducing total costs. This compares extremely favourably with the cost of other clean energy options and supports the conclusion from the International Energy Agency that end-use efficiency measures offer the least cost pathway to energy and CO2 emission reductions.
Appliances and equipment covered by EESL programs have not only dramatically improved in efficiency over the past 20 years, but are also cheaper to purchase. While EESL programs may have caused small changes in prices close to the implementation of new energy efficiency measures, they appear to have had little long-term impact on appliance price trends.
This is mainly due to the ability of appliance manufacturers to find new and cheaper ways to improve efficiency and to production volume-related cost reductions. EESL programs have been very successful in fostering innovation, expanding existing markets and opening up new market opportunities. This has led to enhanced employment outcomes, with 900,000 direct jobs created by EESL programs in the EU and 340,000 jobs in the USA.
A range of other benefits, including improvements in air-quality and the reduction of public expenditure on health, have been found to flow from EESL programs, and provide additional justification for investment in these types of programs. In jurisdictions where these types of policy objectives are of high national importance, the contribution made by such co-benefits can be sufficiently large in their own right to justify EESL programs.
In some very specific cases, the reduced energy costs resulting from EESL programs may be used by householders and companies to purchase additional energy services (the rebound effect). In developed countries, this is likely to be limited to the use of heating, cooling, water heating and to a lesser extent lighting, mainly in low-income households. In many cases, these increased comfort levels may be an intended outcome of EESL programs, for example when targeted at low-income households. Even when a rebound effect has been found to occur, EESL programs have still demonstrated a net energy saving, and overall cost-effectiveness.