EU targets windows and taps with eco-design rules

BRUSSELS Fri Apr 24, 2009 10:53am EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Showers, taps, windows and home insulation will have to conform to environmental standards in the European Union, after lawmakers voted to widen the scope of existing "eco-design" regulations on Friday.

The move is aimed at weaning the 27-nation bloc off its heavy dependence on Russian gas and at cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the battle against climate change.

Current standards are restricted to energy-using products such as boilers, computers and televisions, but the European Parliament voted in favor of widening the measures to all products that can save energy.

The EU has pledged to cut carbon dioxide emissions to a fifth below 1990 levels by 2020 and is hoping fresh impetus from the United States will open the way to a global deal on fighting climate change at talks in Copenhagen this year.

"We need more ecological innovation to fight climate change but also to overcome the current economic downturn," EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said.

"Today's decision will open up new business opportunities in particular for small and medium sized enterprises," he added.

The design standards themselves have not yet been set, and will be left in the hands of the European Commission.

The new standards will have a particular impact on the glazing industry, which faces rapid change as the EU moves toward its goal of cutting energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020.

While it may miss that target, the EU could cut back its gas consumption to the levels of the early 1990s by 2030, according to a report on Friday by consultancy Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

If the share of replacement windows being double-glazed were to increase 30 percent, the EU would save the amount of power generated by two to three nuclear power stations, the European Commission estimated.

Britain's Europe minister Caroline Flint said the move would help businesses and families save money, adding the UK had just pledged 375 million pounds ($549.8 million) of support for energy efficiency.

The European Parliament approved the move with 394 votes in favor and 13 against. EU member states have already agreed on the move informally.

(Reporting by Pete Harrison; editing by Sue Thomas)

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