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BEE plans to revise energy rating norms at longer intervals for electronic goods

According to reports, little did Chennai-based engineer Priyanka Sachdev realise that after spending a shade below 25,000 for a five-star rated refrigerator – the most energy efficient – last Diwali, it would turn out to be a not-so-energy efficient model this year. She was not told by the salesman that energy efficiency rating norms would be revised from 2014, turning a five-star refrigerator into a three-star one from January.

Sachdev is among millions of consumers who suffer a notional loss after paying a premium to buy an energy-efficient appliance, with the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) upgrading the standards every two years. BEE is the nodal body under the Union power ministry that implements energy rating norms.

This increases the obsolescence rate and drives prices up by 10-15%, companies said. For instance, Sachdev’s refrigerator became obsolete in three months. In effect, it has become an unending chase for consumers to save more on power consumption by purchasing energy-efficient models.

This may soon change with India’s appliance and consumer electronic energy rating system set to become more consumer-friendly. BEE plans to replace the present system of biennial changes in rating standards with one that lasts longer to reduce the rate of obsolescence for an energy-efficient model.

The agency also plans to include televisions and geysers from this year under mandatory energy ratings, which now includes only frost-free refrigerators, air-conditioners and tube lights.

“The present system of upgrading energy rating norms every two years was prevalent till the latest change effective this calendar year as per what we had decided six years ago and hence will now be evaluated,” said BEE director general Ajay Mathur. “Now that Indian energy rating norms are at par with global standards and consumers value energy-efficient products, we can continue with the rating standards for a longer period such as four years,” he said.

BEE will soon start consultations with manufacturers, testing labs and consumer rights groups to decide the road map for white goods energy rating norms. Mathur said the agency had initially decided on a gradual increase of rating norms every two years since a severe tightening would have increased product prices significantly, which would have been a burden for consumers.   Due to the changes of rating norms by BEE, a five-star air-conditioner purchased in 2011-12 is now a three-star device, even though the consumer may have purchased such a model at a 30-40% premium over a less energy-efficient model. Similarly, a five-star AC purchased in 2012-13 has become a four-star unit.For frost-free refrigerators, there has been a two-level rise in rating norms this year, whereby a five-star unit bought in 2012-13 has become a three-star device, while one bought in 2010-11 is now rated two stars.

White goods makers say they have to increase appliance prices by 10-15% whenever there is an up-gradation of energy rating standards, due to the increase in production costs associated with technology change.

Mathur said BEE also wants to evolve testing protocols and standards so that a rated product delivers the stated efficiency, irrespective of varied operating conditions. As per current standards, an air-conditioner is measured for its energy efficiency by calculating the power it consumes to cool a room to 22 degrees Celsius when it’s 35 degrees Celsius outside.

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