Policies that are designed to inform and empower consumers to choose more energy-efficient products. Typical examples of supporting policies include product labeling campaigns as well as communications and outreach activities. Product labeling can consist of simply ‘endorsement labels’ like Energy Star, or comparative/informational labels like the EU A to G energy label. Communication and outreach focus on stakeholder empowerment through raising awareness and disseminating information about products.
Supporting policies are highly complementary to the Product Standards. While Standards focus on what is allowed to be placed on the market (setting supply chain minimum requirements), Supporting Policies focus on informing the end-user (or specifier) – the person making the final selection of the appliance. By being better informed about endorsement, comparative performance, and running costs, consumers are able to make better purchasing decisions, often choosing the least life-cycle cost.
Product labeling is one of the most effective ways to provide information at the time of purchase to the consumer or business making the purchasing decision. Product labels work as a ‘market pull’ mechanism, by informing the end-user about the future running costs associated with the product they are about to purchase. When implemented well, product labeling can be one of the most cost-effective energy efficiency policy measures.
In general, there are three major types of energy labels – these are Endorsement, Comparative and Informational.
Endorsement- an initiative sets out quality and/or performance criteria for a category of products; suppliers who have qualifying products can apply to use the endorsement logo on their packaging/marketing materials. Participation is usually voluntary, and some examples of endorsement labels are the US EPA’s Energy Star and Germany’s Blue Angel.
Comparative – a type of labeling scheme that facilitates comparison between products based on energy or other performance aspects. This comparison could be on the basis of a discrete set of categories (e.g., A to G scale, or 1 to 5 stars), or it could be presented on a continuous, sliding scale (e.g., Canada’s EnerGuide). These labels can be mandatory or voluntary, depending on the policy context.
Informational – a type of label that conveys product performance or other attributes in a consistent format, but does not attempt to guide the consumer with a scale or rank. These labels can also be voluntary or mandatory, depending on the policy context. An example of this label would be the US Department of Energy’s Lighting Facts label.
Product labels can be either mandatory or voluntary, but should always be designed to meet the needs of the customer. Therefore, the best practice is to conduct consumer research, including focus groups, to discuss and design labels for a given product or appliance. It is beneficial to align with an existing labeling scheme which has been shown to be effective in order to reduce compliance costs and lower manufacturer and importer costs. Additionally, existing labels may be more readily recognized and understood by consumers.
In general, it is important that product labels are simple and easy to understand, incorporating information, graphics, and icons in a format that clearly and easily conveys the information to the end-user. For lighting products, the information typically conveyed on a lighting label includes the efficacy (or a scale, such as A to G of the relative efficacy), the light output, the wattage, and an estimate of the running costs. Other information that may appear on the label includes the lamp base type (e.g. E27, B22), operating voltage, incandescent lamp wattage equivalency, whether the lamp is dimmable, its annual running cost, and if it contains mercury.
The new European energy label for lighting products includes a QR code that links to a product registry database with more information on the products offered for sale.
Ultimately, the success of any labeling scheme depends on the credibility of that scheme, including whether the public trust the endorsement or the information presented on that label. Less reputable companies may make false claims, thus it is important for labeling programme managers to constantly monitor the products using the label and ensure that all companies participating are doing so in a fair and accurate way.
Mandatory Product Labels
Mandatory product labeling programmes are based on government regulations that require the placement of a label on the product. The labels provide critical information to end-users about the product, including its energy consumption and other quality and performance aspects. The provision of information to consumers empowers them to make informed choices for their situation, including choosing products with higher levels of efficiency and quality.
Many governments around the world use labeling programmes in combination with other policy instruments, including mandatory energy performance regulations and standards, financial incentives, or voluntary agreements, which together enhance the effectiveness. Successful programmes incorporate a combination of legal, financial, and social considerations, depending on the structure, economics, and culture of the society in which they apply. And while it should be noted that labeling programmes are very helpful in transforming markets, labeling programmes alone cannot phase out inefficient or toxic lighting, thus they are best used in combination with other initiatives. To develop a labeling programme to its fullest potential, government officials and stakeholders must combine various features to design or adapt a programme most suitable to their country’s specific needs.
Advantages of mandatory product labels
- Provides consumers with relevant information on energy-efficient, high-quality products.
- Can serve as a basis for other policy instruments, e.g., financial schemes, rebates, and subsidies.
- Widespread recognition of a label provides a strong market incentive for energy efficiency
- Programmes accelerate the pace of market evolution and adoption of new technologies
Challenges of mandatory product labels
- High time and resource investment to build awareness with end-users and retailers.
- Mandatory programmes can be more rigid than voluntary programmes, and if poorly designed can become a market barrier.
- Requires ongoing monitoring to ensure compliance and fair participation.
- Measurement of the impact can be challenging because the impact of the programme depends on consumer awareness and market adoption.
Voluntary Product Labels
Voluntary product labeling programmes work with product suppliers who choose to add a label to their products to inform end-users about product performance. By adding that label, consumers will have a greater awareness of energy performance and other aspects of the product and be able to make more informed purchasing decisions and contribute to developing a stronger market for energy-efficient products.
Voluntary labeling is effective when combined with widespread communications and awareness-building campaigns. These campaigns demonstrate the benefits of energy-efficient lighting products to consumers and suppliers and thereby can attract high levels of participation. However, in general, only the high efficiency and better performing lamps are likely to be labeled, because suppliers have no incentive to label low-efficiency lamps. Voluntary labeling programmes can function as an interim step towards mandatory programmes, particularly if a country is new to labeling or has limited resources.
Advantages of voluntary product labels
- Cost-effective way to provide consumers with information on energy-efficient, high-quality products
- Can serve as a basis for other instruments such as financial schemes, rebates, and subsidies
- The resulting energy savings are relatively simple to quantify and can be easily verified
- Voluntary programmes require less legislation and analysis compared with mandatory programmes because they are non-binding and non-regulatory
Challenges of voluntary product labels
- Requires a considerable investment in time and effort to build awareness with end users and retailers
- Requires a large investment to persuade manufacturers to participate, as non-participation can erode confidence in the programme
- Have a market sampling scheme to verify labeled products and ensure that labelled products perform as claimed
- Only the high efficiency products are labelled, as there is no incentive to register and label low efficiency models
Communication and Awareness Raising Programmes
Communications and awareness-raising campaigns are critical to supporting national initiatives to promote energy-efficient lighting. These initiatives are designed to help facilitate changes in end-user behavior that will contribute to further savings by making end-users more ‘energy-aware. These campaigns can contribute to greater awareness in energy conservation, lifestyle, technology choices, and energy awareness, which all contribute to a general trend towards energy savings.
Public awareness and education campaigns help energy-efficient lighting programmes gain momentum in the market. They reinforce the long-term effects of related energy-efficiency measures in addition to providing end-users with knowledge about efficient lighting technologies and their environmental and financial benefits. They can also help to promote general acceptance and create a positive public environment for energy efficiency.
Communication campaigns should accentuate the positive. In general, they should focus on the range of benefits and outcomes that end-users will enjoy as a result of selecting energy-efficient lighting products, such as lowering their monthly electricity bills. If users can feel good about the outcome, they are more motivated to take an interest in seeking information to support their purchasing decision. Dry, factual messages will have less impact than engaging, positive, and beneficial statements.
Designers of communications and awareness-raising campaigns should avoid developing complicated or technical text, graphs, or charts. Messages should be factual enough to be compelling, but also user-friendly and simple to be memorable. Some of the successful communications campaigns on efficient lighting have focused on positive messaging around the following:
- Monetary savings;
- National pride;
- Energy efficiency and energy savings;
- Convenience (long-life);
- A simple and hassle-free switch;
- Environmental responsibility;
- Political and economic advantages;
- Energy security and reliability.
Designing a Communications Campaign
The success of a communications campaign depends on its design. Objectives should be established in line with policy goals. The objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). They determine the choice of communication tools and messages as well as evaluation parameters.
Communication campaign design will vary depending on the target audience(s). For governments, the approach should persuade officials to formulate policy that promotes and maintains efficient lighting best practices. For business, practical tools such as online information and printed materials, new media, targeted training programmes, events and trade shows, and design competitions. For the public, tools should be designed to shape thoughts, change an attitude, or induce action.
The communication messages should be simple and relevant to the audience. Messages should make the desired behavior attractive and easy and demonstrate benefits to end-users. Usually, monetary savings are a strong motivator in all communications campaigns about efficiency, but in some developing countries, messages that tap into a sense of national pride may resonate as strongly.
Communication plans should be flexible. They should allow for adjustments based on monitoring results and any circumstantial changes. Project management skills are needed to successfully manage the launch and ongoing operation of the campaign. Diagnostic skills are used to recognize whether the campaign fulfills its expectations. If the campaign falls short of its goals, then its problems must be addressed.
Identifying and Engaging Stakeholders
Identifying the target audience for a campaign is critical as this helps in carefully tailoring the messaging and how that messaging is delivered. For lighting, there are generally four target audiences who are relevant;
- Institutions and government
- Private sector
- Media and others.
For each of these four groups, we identify some typical stakeholders in each group and summarise their primary interest and areas of involvement.