One of the three proposed ideas that could be implemented to endorse sustainability within our country and around the world is Universal World Labelling and Minimum Performance Standards for all Electrical Appliances and Water Devices. This strategy would incorporate the usage of global energy rating scales for ALL household appliances, as well as legally enforced minimum requirements for the management of energy and water consumption. There are a number of ways certain nations and individuals already work with this proposal in mind, and there are numerous ways the world as a whole could be improved through its success.
An example of a program that is already present is the E3 program. In Australia and New Zealand, this has been introduced with an intergovernmental agreement developed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). The program aims to reduce energy bills for households and businesses through the improvement of modern technology, improvement of energy efficiency of current and new products and reduce carbon emissions through a process that works in conjunction with other national prospects. Through this initiative, 25% less energy is used by household washing machines (in comparison to those 10 years ago), 27% less energy is being used by household lighting since 2009 and small split system air conditioners are 50% more effective than models prior to 2001. These stats are just a small glimpse at what national action can achieve, and there is without a doubt much room for improvement in both countries. For example, there are a number of appliances that do not abide to the energy rating scale, such as commercial refrigerated storage cabinets, swimming pool pumps and evaporative air conditioners. These are used wide scale across the nation for both commercial and domestic purposes, and therefore are mass consumers of energy. In association with the E3 program, on the 1st of October 2012, the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) Act 2012 came into effect; creating a national framework for product energy efficiency in Australia. The specific requirements for each product regulated under the GEMS Act (which is further comprised of the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) and Energy Rating Labelling (ERL) requirements) are set out in a further legislation specific to that that product type called a GEMS Determination. The Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) Act 2012 is “an Act to promote the development and adoption of products that use less energy and produce fewer greenhouse gases, and for related purposes.” Generally speaking, a product covered by a GEMS determination can only be supplied or offered for supply, or used for commercial purpose, if:
- The model of the product is registered under this Act, or
- The product complies with the determination
The GEMS Act therefore helps to promote the development and adoption of products that:
- Use less energy; or
- Produce fewer greenhouse gases; or
- Contribute to reducing the amount of energy used, or greenhouse gases produced, by other products.
However, under the current Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) Act, certain products can still beoffered for supply, or used for commercial purpose, as they meet the bear minimum requirements. Therefore, these products aren’t necessarily the at the highest energy efficiency standard possible; warranting for a modification in the legislation. In conjunction with this, the Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) specify the minimum level of energy performance that appliances, lighting and electrical equipment (products) must meet or exceed before they can be offered for sale or used for commercial purposes. MEPS are an effective way to increase the energy efficiency of products. By specifying a minimum energy performance level inefficient products are prevented from being sold to consumers. Therefore, this increases the energy efficiency of products and reduces the impact on the environment. There are a number of legal requirements must meet, and under the Minimum Energy Performance Standards, Air Conditioners – Evaporative, Battery Chargers, Non-domestic fans and dishwashers don’t meet the Minimum Efficiency Performance Standards.
“On average, Australia’s use 341,000 litres of water each year – that’s around 8 backyard swimming pool,” (Coolaustralia.org, 2016)
In terms of Australian water efficiency, the nation utilises a similar rating system to that of the energy rating system designed by the E3 program, known as the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme. This is a 6 star rating system – the more stars equating to a higher efficiency rating. This scheme aims to cut down individual and industry costs and reduce the harmful impact on the environment induced through excess water consumption, and has already achieved excellent results in terms of savings, however there is always room for further development. One such pathway would be to alter the legislation so that current standard products are replaced with water efficient products. For example, under the Australian Government Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme about 25 per cent of these savings will come from using more water-efficient showerheads, another 50 per cent from more efficient washing machines and over 20 per cent from water-efficient toilets. A standard shower uses anywhere between 15 – 25 litres of water per minute, whereas water efficient products may use as little as 7 litres per minute. Furthermore, a water efficient washing machine uses approximately one third of the water a standard washing machine would use. Under the current WELS determination, these ‘standard’ products are still available and can be supplied for residential and commercial use, despite their obvious negative potential. This serves as definitive evidence to prompt the change of legislation currently enacted to ensure a more water-effective approach is taken to consumer appliances.
Imports and Exports
Import and export restrictions are put in place on all appliances in accordance with the GEMS and WELS act. The aim of these limitations is to preserve sustainable operation and ensure all devices comply with the regulations enforced by the legislation.As a legal requirement, each product must undergo 3 steps; testing, assured compliance and registration.
The first step involves the completion of a test report which clearly demonstrates that the product meet minimum performance standards and determines the energy rating given to the item, This report is usually required to be handed in with registration. The following step is assured compliance. This is general acknowledgement that the product meets all legal requirements and abides by all legislation set out by the Australian government. Finally, the product must be registered before it is able to be supplied to a consumer. It is the responsibility of the registerer to ensure that their product meets and continues to meet its own individual operating and performance standards within Australian regulation.
Call to Action:
Australia and New Zealand are some of the first world powers to adopt an environmentally-focused approach to household and commercial technologies. Through their current actions each country has achieved encouraging results by greatly reducing consumption of key resources. In spite of this accomplishment being significant, it is not enough to prevent our current harmful influence on the planet. It is now time for governments globally to introduce appliance labelling and minimum performance standards, as well as further their current efforts. Australia can lead by example by increasing their control on imported and exported electrical products. As of right now imported products simply have to meet MEPS and WELS, however they are under no obligation to be environmentally friendly. If the nation were to clarify the legislation to require imported products to meet a higher energy/water efficiency standard, overall sustainability would take a noticeable leap. Commercial consumption is one of the largest in terms of non-sustainable resources. Through the implementation of renewable energy providers, water-saving irrigation/appliances and a more mindful understanding of user impact, people everywhere will be able to contribute to the prevention of irreversible and volatile damage to our planet.