Ecodesign Directive & TV Energy Label: Are OLED TVs threatened with extinction?
In March 2021, the new EU energy label came into force, which classified many televisions in lower energy classes. The next tightening is now due for March 2023 with the change in the Ecodesign Directive. We will explain to you whether this means that 8K and OLED TVs are on the verge of extinction.
The old energy classes, in which numerous televisions were in one of the many gradations of the A class, are passé. According to the new energy label from 2021, larger 8K and OLED TVs in particular end up in the worst of the new classes: G. At the start of the new EU energy label, there were no devices with the A rating, models with the lowest power consumption were included B or C excellent.
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EU Ecodesign Directive tightens requirements
This is what the EU energy label for televisions has looked like since March 2021. Image: © European Commission 2021
With a revision of the Ecodesign Directive 2009/128/EG , the EU will further tighten the consumption limits of many devices from March 2023. According to the EU, this should eliminate "electricity guzzlers" from the market and increase the environmental compatibility of the products used in the EU. Germany implements the directive with the awkwardly named "Energy-Relevant Products Act" (EVPG).
The "Energy Efficiency Index" (EEI) of a device, which is calculated using a complicated formula, is decisive for the EU. It takes into account power consumption and screen area. Each energy label class has limit values for the EEI. A device that exceeds the maximum permitted EEI of class "G" may not be sold on the European market.
New borders and the elimination of special regulations
According to current plans, the EU plans to tighten the maximum EEI for TV sets from March 2023.
The omission of many special rules in the new regulations is particularly problematic for the industry associations of TV manufacturers. For example, 8K displays and televisions with micro-LED technology have so far been excluded from the provisions of the directive. Both technologies are state-of-the-art, but consume a particularly large amount of energy.
Until now, OLEDs, in which each pixel is self-illuminating, have benefited from a correction factor when calculating the EEI. This should also be omitted. It is still questionable how the heavily fluctuating consumption of this technology will be taken into account. Although it is very high with bright images, much less energy is required for dark images than with other screen technologies.
With the changes, compliance with the limits will be difficult, especially for very large TVs and those with the latest technologies.
8K, micro-LED and OLED in the end?
8K TV: Very big, very high definition, very power hungry. Image: © Adobe Stock/Proxima Studio 2020
Industry associations are sounding the alarm that with the Ecodesign Directive 2023, state-of-the-art TV technologies such as OLED, 8K and micro-LED are on the brink of collapse before they can really gain a foothold in the market. In fact, this clearly contradicts the EU's declared intention to exclude from sale devices with unusually high power consumption values in their respective market segment. One can conclude that this meant rather inferior devices.
Nevertheless, you don't have to worry about your dream television. Most currently available OLED televisions, for example, would comply with the new limit values, albeit just a little. In any case, the new directive only applies to devices that are to be sold after it comes into force. There are also ways in which the ban on sales can be avoided.
However, it will be tight for future 8K televisions and large displays with micro-LED technology. According to a study by the industry association Digital Europe, all 8K televisions available in the previous year would significantly exceed the new limits. In order to meet the new criteria, a reduction in energy consumption of 40 to 50 percent would be necessary – probably rather unrealistic.
Ways out and solutions for affected TVs
On closer inspection, the Ecodesign Directive contains a number of possible ways out of the dilemma.
It is still questionable how the various television technologies are classified. Thus, according to the wording of the Ecodesign Directive, " the product […] must offer significant potential for improving its environmental performance without excessively high costs" and " large differences in environmental performance between products available on the market with equivalent functions [ to rule]".
One could argue that 8K TVs need to be seen as a separate market segment. Since there have been special regulations for them so far, the EU also seems to see things differently. Then the directive could not apply to these televisions at all, because all 8K TVs have a similarly high power consumption and therefore the necessary large differences between products available on the market do not exist.
Another argument for the invalidity of certain televisions could also be the limited quantity specified in the directive. So the sales and trading volume must be "substantial". A figure of 200,000 pieces per year applies here as a guideline. According to the Association of the German Electrical and Digital Industry (ZVEI), only 200,000 8K televisions and 200 micro-LED TVs were sold across the EU, as reported by heise.de, among others .
Professional screens for video editing, CAD and graphics are already exempt from the regulation, so there are already segmentations in the “screens” category.
Changes to the directive can still be made by the EU up to December 25th. So there is still some hope for adapted regulations for (large) televisions with modern technology.
Energy-saving standard mode as a loophole?
It is conceivable that TV modes with high consumption values will first have to be set by the customer in the future. Image: © Samsung 2022
Even without changes or legal sophistry, manufacturers have an obvious, albeit ugly, way out.
The limits apply only to the SDR standard mode. Higher consumption values are allowed both in HDR mode and with other program settings. TV producers could therefore integrate a particularly energy-saving and greatly reduced brightness standard mode for delivery. However, that would not be particularly attractive and sales-promoting. A notification window asking the owner to switch to a nicer mode wouldn't be against the rules. At the same time, there just has to be a clear indication of the increased power consumption that needs to be confirmed. Many televisions, such as the author's Sony OLED, already have such an information window.
We doubt that this default mode cheating is in the proper sense of the ecodesign directive. With the new regulations and the ways out that have been pointed out at the same time, the EU not only seems to be missing the purpose of the directive, but is also taking it ad absurdum.
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- From March 2023, the EU has set new maximum values for the power consumption of TVs.
- Large televisions and those with modern technologies such as 8K, micro-LED and OLED are threatened by the new sales ban ceilings.
- Changes to the policy are still possible until December 25th.
- It is unclear whether the directive applies equally to all televisions.
- Manufacturers can often meet the rules with an energy-saving, darkened TV in the delivery state.
- The future of 8K and large micro LED TVs, which consume around 40 to 50 percent above the new highs, remains unclear.