Latin America: Requirements for Energy Efficient Products

Oct 31st, 2012 | By | Category: Sustainability

Companies manufacturing and selling appliances, equipment and lighting in Latin America face a growing demand from governments and consumers: reduce 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 for product manufacturers, importers, and sales people. However, the region maintains its diversity, and almost every state has adopted a different approach to regulating energy efficiency and labeling.

In most cases, countries have instituted voluntary labeling programs and are regulating on the basis of the industry’s response, but other countries have established maximum energy consumption standards. Either way, Latin American regulators are looking closer at product energy performance with a goal to reduce national energy consumption and mitigate climate change impacts.



Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are Latin American countries where the regulatory trend on energy efficiency in consumer products is particularly 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 developed to control product energy consumption. The universe of regulatory elements, though, can be rather confusing if not analyzed from a regional standpoint.  

Product manufacturers, importers, and sales people who are active in Latin America should ask themselves two important questions

  • 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.


Energy Performance Standards

Minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) exist in four Latin American countries

  • Mexico
  • Brazil
  • Uruguay
  • Argentina

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 regulatory authority that issues the standard (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 are issued in the form of official Mexican norms on energy efficiency (NOM-ENER de Eficiencia Energética), which are published in the official journal, and are 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

Labeling programs are present in these four jurisdictions, although they are used for different purposes.

In Argentina, labeling programs are used as an 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
  • 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 by which the energy efficiency label is mandatory for that class of products. Uruguay has implemented mandatory labeling programs for several products including

  • compact fluorescent lamps
  • water heaters
  • refrigeration devices for domestic uses

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. It envisions 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). The labeling programs in Brazil include

  • compact fluorescent lamps
  • washing machines for household use
  • electromagnetic ballasts for lamps and sodium vapor lamps with metal halide (Halides)
  • refrigerators and their counterparts for household use
  • plasma, LCD and projection televisions


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 comply 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.


About the Author

Daniel Rincón is an EHS consultant and the regional coordinator for Latin America at Enhesa. Mr. Rincón is a Colombian-trained EHS regulatory expert, who specializes in EHS law in Latin American countries. His experience includes the development and maintenance of audit protocols for more than 10 countries, monitoring regulatory developments, and advising multinational clients on how to maintain compliance. He holds a LLM degree in Energy and Environmental Law awarded by the Katholieke Universiteit of Leuven, Belgium, a specialization degree in Corporate Law from the Universidad del Rosario in Colombia, and a Law degree awarded by the same university in Colombia. Mr. Rincón speaks Spanish, English and French.

Photograph: Timer by Emin Ozkan, London, England.

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2 Comments to “Latin America: Requirements for Energy Efficient Products”

  1. LETICIA DIAS says:

    Dear Mr Rincon,
    I am Letícia Dias and I hereby request a direction regarding the Energy Economy Assessment provided by the Refrigeration Labeling Programs.

    I am a student of the Professional Master’s Degree in Metrology and Quality by the National Institute of Metrology, Quality and Technology – INMETRO in Brazil.

    My research is to perform a Benchmarking between Brazil and Argentina, considering Argentina together with Brazil, the two masters in this issue in Latin American.

    The great difficulty that I try to clarify in this research is in how to evaluate the energy saving provided by the labeling program in Brazil annually for the product Refrigerator.

    The INMETRO has this annual obligation, but the reports found report the analysis of a decade 1999-2009, not being done annually.

    I would like to know how it works in Argentina, what methodology is used, if they are reported annually and disclosed to the society, who are responsible and where could find these reports and the methodology used.

    I admire your article and I´m using it as reference in my research.
    I’m still seekiing for more information, and I’d like your help.

    I look forward to your return, thank you very much for your attention.

    Yours sincerely, Letícia Dias.

  2. […] In most cases, countries have instituted voluntary labeling programs and are regulating on the basis of the industry’s response, but other countries have established maximum energy consumption standards. Either way, Latin American regulators are looking closer at product energy performance with a goal to reduce national energy consumption and mitigate climate change impacts… Read more here! […]

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