New energy standards for home boilers entering into force this month are expected to take offline the equivalent of 47 Fukushima-type nuclear power stations in Europe by 2020, according to official EU data compiled by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).
The stricter Ecodesign standards for home boilers – and corresponding labelling coming alongside – will enter into force on 26 September, after years of gruelling negotiation between the European Commission and industry representatives.
As of that date, only gas boilers and water heaters using energy-efficient condensation technology will be allowed for sale in the EU, said Paul Hodson, Head of Unit Energy Efficiency & Intelligent Energy, at the European Commission.
Europe’s heating equipment is responsible for 25% of the continent's CO2 emissions, according to the EEB, around the same level as road transport or industry.
“This is the single most important package of Ecodesign and labelling regulations” ever adopted by the European Union, said Hodson, who was speaking to a small group of journalists in the European Parliament on Wednesday (16 September).
“The minimum standards will mean that nearly everybody who replaces their boiler will replace it with a condensing boiler,” which are typically 50% more efficient than those found in European homes today, he said.
Those are also “about €1,000” more expensive than current boilers, Hodson admitted when asked by EurActiv about the additional cost this will represent for consumers. But the investment will take only “a few years” to pay back, he assured.
In the long run, the new standards “will save the average household more than 400 euros a year in their energy bills by 2020”, Hodson observed.
“So these are not trivial policies.”
Some 6.6 million boilers are sold on average each year in the EU, with the entire stock representing about 16% of the bloc’s total gross energy consumption in 2006.
Product policies such as boiler standards are expected to lower energy demand and reduce every home energy bill by €480 on average by 2020, according to an EEB factsheet, which cites official data from a European Commission impact assessment.
Jack Hunter, an energy efficiency campaigner at the EEB, said the new boiler standards will bring “mammoth” energy savings, and deliver “as much as” the ETS, the European Union’s flagship Emissions Trading Scheme for greenhouse gases.
EU consumers "will save energy equivalent to 47 nuclear power plants of the Fukushima type," said Peter Liese, a German MEP from the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), who led the campaign in Parliament to get the rules adopted.
Annual energy savings from the standards and new energy label for space heaters are expected to amount to 45 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) by 2020, which is comparable to the annual gross inland energy consumption of the Czech Republic.
This is expected to rise to 100 Mtoe when the whole stock of existing boilers are replaced by 2031, which is comparable to the annual gross inland energy consumption of Poland or the whole EU iron and steel industry (5,5% of the EU’s annual gross energy consumption), the EEB said, quoting the Commission impact assessment.
Hodson confirmed those figures, saying “Nearly half of the 20% energy efficiency target for 2020 will be met by this collection of eco-design and labelling measures.”
Tackling climate change and terrorism
German MEP Pieter Liese personally battled for the new rules to be adopted. He said they demonstrated that Europe was ready to play “a leading role” on climate change ahead of the United Nations conference in Paris in December, when a successor to the Kyoto Protocol will be discussed.
Referring to the EU’s ailing ETS, Liese said energy saving standards could be just as efficient in curbing greenhouse gases. “I always supported the ETS, but less than 50% of our emissions are covered by the scheme,” Liese told reporters in the European Parliament.
For the lawmaker, the new standards will have the additional benefit of reducing Europe’s energy bill, which he said will also help tackle the unfolding refugee crisis by cutting away sources of funding for terrorists in places like Syria.
“It’s also important to reduce our dependency from energy imports from countries such as Saudi-Arabia and Qatar. Wealthy people from these countries are the main source of finance for ISIS and the terror of ISIS is one of the major reasons for the refugee crisis. We should invest money to the benefit of our installers and our industry instead of financing Putin and sheiks in the Middle East,” Liese said in a statement.
These measures “will not be immediately effective” in fighting terrorism or tackling the refugee crisis Liese admitted, “but they will be crucial for the future".
Not all households will be able to afford the €1,000 extra needed for to acquire a new boiler, however. And for those opting for state-of-the-art renewable technology like heat pumps, the cost could be even higher, with prices ranging from €12,000 to €20,000 , depending on the types of buildings.
But the EEB, which campaigned actively for the new standards, was quick to point to the responsibility of national authorities in providing financial incentives for replacing old models.
“Maybe the most vulnerable people cannot afford €1000 euro. But for the people who can afford it, the payback period is between 3 to 5 years,” said Stéphane Arditi, an EEB lobbyist who leads the Coolproducts campaign.
For the most vulnerable households, he said government incentives were needed to help decrease the fuel poverty gap. “Otherwise, you will be even poorer."
“So there is a clear responsibility by the national and local authorities to pay attention to that and to reduce the fuel poverty gap. And with this kind of measure, they will be able to address this," Arditi said.
“We need to take care of incentives,” Liese concurred, saying that in Germany, charities like Caritas are supporting poor people to buy more efficient equipment.
But he also said, “I don’t think energy consumption is something completely private. What happens with ISIS is not private, policy has to act. And when we see that terrorist organisations get money from oil and gas, we have to react on this. It’s a highly political issue. When Russia cuts the gas, everybody cries out saying we need to do something. So it’s a political task to act.”