Companies manufacturing and selling appliances, equipment and lighting in Latin America (LA) face a growing demand from governments and consumers: reducing energy consumption. In a region of about 20 countries, where Spanish is the dominant language and regulatory systems are based on similar legal models, this demand wouldn’t seem to be a significant regulatory problem to energy-using product manufacturers, importers and sales people. However, the region maintains its diversity. Almost every state has been approaching the challenge of improving energy performance differently: in most cases, by launching voluntary labeling programs and regulating on the basis of the industry’s response and, in some others, by establishing maximum energy consumption standards. Either way, Latin American regulators are looking closer into product energy performance with a goal to improve national energy consumption and mitigate climate change impacts.
Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are some of the LA countries where the regulatory trend on energy efficiency in consumer products is more evident. This trend is observed in the number of regulations, institutions, certification authorities, covered products, labeling programs, minimum standards and enforcement mechanisms each state has to control products’ energy consumption. The universe of regulatory elements, though, can be rather confusing if not analyzed from a regional standpoint. Are there any minimum energy performance standards in these countries, and if so, are they mandatory or not? Do any of these countries have a voluntary or mandatory labeling program in place, and for what products? Answers to these questions may help stakeholders and companies understand how energy efficiency programs work in practice, and, foremost, how to be prepared to place appliances, equipment and lighting on these markets.
Voluntary versus mandatory
Minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) exist in four countries. Mexico, Brazil and Uruguay establish mandatory MEPS on a product-by-product basis, whereas Argentina sets out a catalog of products for which MEPS are drafted. Whether the standard is binding or not will largely depend on the type of standard (official norm, regulation, voluntary standard) and the authority that issues it (government agencies or industrial associations). For example, in Mexico, standards are adopted by the Secretary of Energy (SENER), through the National Commission for Energy Efficiency (CONUEE), and issued in the form of official Mexican norms on energy efficiency (NOM-ENER de Eficiencia Energética), which are published in the official journal, and therefore mandatory. They include self-contained cooling machines, washing machines, and water heaters.
In Brazil, the Committee of Energy Efficiency Indicators and Levels (CGIEE) issues compulsory minimum efficiency energy levels through specific regulations for certain products, and the corresponding assessment conformity mechanism, such as Decree 4.508 of 2002 establishing minimum energy efficiency requirements for electric three-phase squirrel cage induction motors. MEPS issued by the Brazilian Association of Technical Standards (ABNT) are voluntary.
Varying labeling schemes in the region
Labeling programs are present in the four jurisdictions, although they are used for different purposes. In Argentina, labeling programs are used as endorsement of the product’s energy performance. Once a product listed in Resolution 319/99 is regulated in a specific Provision (disposición), it has to meet the MEPS (issued by the IRAM) in order to obtain the energy efficiency label, so it can be marketed. At present, Argentina has mandatory labeling programs for washing machines, fluorescent lamps, air conditioners, refrigerators and freezers.Uruguay follows a similar approach, whereby each product has a decree establishing the MEPS standards it has to meet (issued by the Uruguayan Institution for Technical Norms (UNIT)), the transitory period to fulfill all the requirements and obtain the energy efficiency label, and the date as of which the energy efficiency label is mandatory for that class of products. Uruguay has implemented mandatory labeling programs for compact fluorescent lamps, water heaters, and refrigeration devices for domestic uses, among others.
Labeling requirements in Mexico are embedded in the official norm of the product, establishing the minimum information the appliance must display. The SENER coordinates the creation of a catalog with around 186 appliances and equipment that must display energy consumption information. Without prejudice to the applicable MEPS, new products included in the catalog have to incorporate in a clear and visible way information on energy consumption per unit of time in use, energy consumption in stand-by mode (if applicable), and the quantity of product or service offered by the equipment or appliance per unit of energy consumed (if applicable).
In Brazil, labeling of energy-using products is one of the instruments to assess the energy performance conformity of the product. Whenever the specific regulation establishes labeling as the conformity assessment mechanism (CAM), the product is included in the Brazilian Labeling Program (Programa Brasileiro de Etiquetagem-PBE). This PBE is coordinated by Inmetro and includes all Programs of Conformity Assessment using labels as CAM (as established in their corresponding technical regulations). Currently, the PBE comprises 38 Conformity Assessments Programs in different stages of implementation, which envisages the labeling of many different products as white-goods, vehicles, buildings, etc. For energy efficiency matters, the label used is the National Energy Conservation Label (ENCE-Etiqueta Nacional de Conservação da Energia) and the labeling programs include compact fluorescent lamps, washing machines for household use, electromagnetic ballasts for the lamps and sodium vapor lamps with metal halide (Halides), refrigerators and their counterparts, of household use, and plasma, LCD and projection television type, among others.
Staying on top of the trend
Companies placing products in Latin American markets cannot ignore the regional trend to replace energy-wasting products for new and more efficient technologies. Whether manufacturers and importers are faced with MEPS or labeling mechanisms, understanding the purpose and technicalities of energy efficiency programs in each country helps companies to better estimate the costs of having their products compliant with local regulations. Well implemented programs render benefits for stakeholders and consumers by reducing energy bills, improving technology, enhancing competition, and reducing the carbon footprint of energy-using products.
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