Development and implementation of energy efficiency standards and labeling programs in China: Progress and challenges

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Over the last twenty years, with growing policy emphasis on improving energy efficiency and reducing environmental pollution and carbon emissions, China has implemented a series of new minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) and mandatory and voluntary energy labels to improve appliance energy efficiency. As China begins planning for the next phase of standards and labeling (S&L) program development under the 12th Five Year Plan, an evaluation of recent program developments and future directions is needed to identify gaps that still exist when compared with international best practices. The review of China's S&L program development and implementation in comparison with major findings from international experiences reveal that there are still areas of improvement, particularly when compared to success factors observed across leading international S&L program.

China currently lacks a formalized regulatory process for standard-setting and do not have any legal or regulatory guidance on elements of S&L development such as stakeholder participation or the issue of legal precedence between conflicting national, industrial and local standards. Consequently, China's laws regarding standard-setting and management of the mandatory energy label program could be updated, as they have not been amended or revised recently and no longer reflects the current situation.

While China uses similar principles for choosing target products as the U.S., Australia, EU and Japan, including high energy-consumption, mature industry and testing procedure and stakeholder support, recent MEPS revisions have generally aimed at only eliminating the bottom 20% efficiency of the market. Setting a firm principle based on maximizing energy savings that are technically feasible and economically justified may help improve the stringency of China's MEPS program and reduce the need for frequent revisions.

China also lacks robust survey data and relies primarily on market research data in relatively simple techno-economic analyses used to determine its efficiency standards levels rather than the specific sets of analyses and tools used internationally. Based on international experiences, inclusion of more detailed energy consumption surveys in the Chinese national census surveys and statistical reporting systems could help provide the necessary data for more comprehensive standard-setting analyses.

In terms of stakeholder participation in the standards development process, stakeholder participation in China is limited to membership on technical committees responsible for developing or revising standards and generally do not include environmental groups, consumer associations, utilities and other NGOs. Increasing stakeholder involvement to broader interest groups could help garner more support and feedback in the S&L implementation process.

China has emerged as a leader in a national verification testing scheme with complementary pilot check-testing projects, but it still faces challenges with insufficient funding, low local awareness amongst some regulatory agencies and resistance to check-testing by some manufacturers, limited product sampling scope, and testing inconsistency and incomparability of results. Thus, further financial and staff resources and capacity building will be needed to overcome these remaining challenges and to expand impacts evaluations to assess the actual effectiveness of implementation and enforcement.

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