Fossil gas boilers may continue to be labelled ‘green’ for another decade or so if EU leaders fail to review energy labelling rules for heating appliances within a year. This would be very bad news for an overheating world, write Davide Sabbadin and Melissa Zill.
Europe’s heating and cooling is a climate time bomb, with the sector responsible for almost half of the EU’s energy consumption and a third of its CO2 emissions.
Ageing buildings bear much of the blame, with a large part of the energy used to heat our homes going to waste due to poor insulation. A wave of deep renovation is desperately needed, but that is not the whole story.
In Brussels’ policy circles, many are sounding the alarm bells over the continued installation and use of fossil fuel boilers – some of which are labelled ‘green’ without any technical or scientific justification.
Since 2015, energy labels on many fossil gas boilers have misleadingly displayed green A ratings – a symbol of high environmental performance which is generally associated with climate friendly products. This is largely due to bad decision-making. Back in 2010, the Commission had temporarily adopted a new labelling system for home appliances which added confusing plusses to the then popular A to G scale. This meant the inclusion of three additional marks: A+++, A++, A+, with A being the fourth lowest rating before B, C and D.
This labelling system was and still is very confusing and unfair, according to recent surveys. Suddenly, the A rating went from being associated with top-class energy efficient products to promoting some of the most polluting home appliances.
This has come at the expense of consumers and truly green solutions. Heat pumps and solar panels – all rated A+ or above – are more efficient than a class A gas boiler, yet their labels are not as appealing to consumers who may still consider any class A product top notch. EU institutions realised this was a mistake in 2017 and decided to revert to the original and clearer A to G scale. However, the switch will only start next year, and it will not apply to labels displayed on domestic heating appliances just yet.
The gas industry may have had something to do with this strange decision. They argued that the current A rating would incentivise consumers to switch from old non-condensing gas boilers to condensing units, which can be up to 30% more energy efficient.
While more efficient, the reality is both condensing and non-condensing gas boilers rely on fossil fuels. In other words, they are incompatible with Europe’s plans for climate neutrality.
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