A Sleeping Giant

The heating and hot water industry has accelerated towards improving energy efficiency and reducing NOx emissions with the relatively recent introduction of condensing gas appliances.  Arguably, the rush to bring on this technology, after years of almost leisurely development, was fuelled by legislation. However, renewable technologies, such as solar thermal systems and heat pumps amongst others, are well established. Also, some leading manufacturers applied the technology to appliances not required, then or now, to be condensing, for example, commercial gas-fired water heaters.  
Nevertheless, in the absence of any routinely applied environmental concerns or clean up legal requirements, there has previously been little reason for system designers or end users to harness those benefits. 
Generally, manufacturers invest in the research and development of energy efficient technologies above the level at which the market enables their viable, mainstream emergence. However, the wind of change stirred by the UK Building Regulations Part L and Part L2 will become a storm under the EU energy policy, known as 20/20/20, that will affect the entire industry from architects to consulting engineers, contractors and builders’ merchants.
A key driver of the EU energy policy is the Eco-design of Energy-using Products Directive (EuP Directive) which is expected to be fully effective early in 2009 and is based on a mixture of voluntary actions, self regulatory measures and mandatory provisions. 
The Directive’s specific details are not yet known, but Preparatory Studies and the work of Consultation Forums indicate its likely scope. Of 19 product categories under consideration, boilers and water heaters are key, as combined they account for approximately 24% of all EU emissions, the same as transport.  Implementation measures are being drafted, with compliance likely in January 2009, including the implication that certain categories of product, such as atmospheric boilers, will be eliminated.  A Consultative Forum will discuss draft implementation in February 2008, followed by a Regulatory Forum planned for June 2008, with formal approval of member states appearing in the European Journal in October 2008   
The UK H&V industry can therefore begin planning and be in the vanguard of change when the policy is fully implemented, rather than having to play catch-up. Manufacturers will be most affected and some manufacturers Trade Associations are establishing working committees. There will, however, be an enormous impact on the work of architects and system designers because the Directive is system rather than product based, requiring best energy efficiency from the best available technology. Every life cycle aspect will be considered, including disposal
Clearly, there is plenty to discuss. The boiler and water heater industry is a significant player if the EU 20/20/20 targets are to be achieved.  The move towards renewable technologies is well established and trends show that the split between domestic and commercial work for installers is narrowing. The need for the commercial heating and hot water industry to offer training for customers, specifiers and installers appears compelling.  Training should cover design requirements, installation procedures, particularly concerning renewable technologies, the set up and control of systems to optimise performance and trouble-shooting.
Because it is all about energy efficiency and reduced emissions the Directive’s aims are common sense for our industry.  However, given the short timescale before it impacts, our experience is that consultants and contractors know very little about it.  With the focus on solutions and system performance the profile of M&E consultants will be raised.  The market will rely on and expect industry professionals to be fully aware and up to speed, so it is up to us. 
There are unknowns. A possible implication is that major manufacturers could move from being equipment producers to solution providers.  The testing requirements could even effectively change the route to market for smaller manufacturers who may become specialist product suppliers (OEM) to larger solution providers.
Implementation of the Directive will give end users confidence that their purchase will be as energy efficient as possible and fit for purpose.  Manufacturers’ knowledge shared with designers, specifiers and installers will help them incorporate renewable technologies into system solutions, bringing them into the mainstream.                                              
Market leaders will develop energy saving products, with or without Directives or Regulations. Accordingly, the whole industry should pull together through education and training, to ensure that the available technology is fully understood, utilised and applied with best practice. This process of voluntary actions and self-regulatory measures will ensure that the industry is in shape when the time comes for mandatory provisions, due in 2010.

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