How International Electrotechnical Standards promote sustainability

Conversation between SCC and IEC ACEE Chair

The world’s climate is changing. This change will impact not only our communities but also the global economy. Organizations around the world are responding to these challenges in many ways and energy efficiency standards can play a significant role in the fight against climate change.

LED lightbulbs
LED bulbs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but now they are a part of regulations in some jurisdictions

The IEC Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency (ACEE), led by Canadian expert Luc Boutin, coordinates activities related to energy efficiency. A major initiative of ACEE was the recent publication of IEC Guide 118 and IEC Guide 119, which offer guidance on the inclusion of energy efficiency considerations throughout the electrotechnical standard development process. 

The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) is working to find standardization solutions that address climate change and mitigate its impacts. Recently, SCC spoke with Luc Boutin about his 20 years of experience in standardization and how his work on energy efficiency standards will help pave the way for a more sustainable future. 

Standards Council of Canada: Can you tell us how you got involved with IEC? 

Luc Boutin: I’ve been involved in standards work since 1993, when I was first asked by Hydro-Québec to attend a technical committee (TC) on Residential Appliances. That’s when I started to participate at the national committee level in Canada. 

At that time, my main duty was to participate in standards that were related to our commercial programmes. Hydro-Québec was among the stakeholders working to enhance the minimum energy performance requirements of these standards. The standards referenced in federal and provincial regulations would be the benchmark for these commercial programmes. These programmes offered incentives that encouraged customers to buy more energy efficient products, such as Energy Star products. 

Through that, I became involved on the subcommittees responsible for energy efficiency standards. After a few years, CSA Group asked me to become a member of the Steering Committee on Performance, Energy Efficiency and Renewables (SCOPEER). SCOPEER guides the committees and subcommittees that are responsible for writing and updating the different standards that will often be used in regulations. 

It was through SCC that I got involved at the international level at IEC. A few years ago, I was recruited to represent Canada in the first Strategic Group (SG) set up by the IEC Standardization Management Board (SMB). The mandate of SG 1 was to develop a roadmap for IEC standardization work in the areas of energy efficiency and renewable resources, and one of our recommendations was to create an Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency (ACEE). So I officially became a member of ACEE around 2013, and last year – when our chairperson moved on – I asked SCC if they would support me as the new Chair of the ACEE. And here we are. 

SCC: What has the ACEE been working on? 

LB: In the years before I became ACEE Chair, we started to produce two guides. Guide 118 is for the inclusion of energy efficiency aspects in electrotechnical Standards. A technical committee will always develop testing methods, or Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) if required – but this guide encourages them to also consider energy efficiency aspects in their work. 

The other guide was Guide 119, and I was its convener. The aim of Guide 119 is to standardize the way of developing energy efficiency Standards, helping technical committees to coordinate with other TCs who may be developing Standards for similar products. 

For example, one group may be developing a Standard on an LED lamp, while another group may be developing a product Standard for the control of that LED lamp. It would be preferable for them to produce a grouped Standard that would cover both, and any other Standards that deal with this product. The aim of Guide 119 was to explain in part the importance of group Standards. 

SCC: What would you consider your greatest accomplishment in standards to date? 

LB: Definitely, it was making Guide 119 mandatory. I pushed for two years for Guide 119, and especially the second part, where TCs are encouraged to work on “horizontal” or group Standards. At first this wasn’t mandatory, but after two years of negotiating it was made mandatory. But it is still a work in progress – it’s mandatory, but we need to make sure that groups know about the guide, that they read it and implement it. That’s the next step and it is the priority of ACEE. 

I think this really shows to the world that energy efficiency is very important – since this is the first guide at IEC to be mandatory. 

SCC: Can you give a specific example of how energy efficiency standards affect a widely used product? 

LB: The one we’re always referencing is refrigerators. Before energy efficiency standards, around the end of the 1970s, a fridge would consume over 1 000 kWh of energy per year. Today, after a few decades of implementing energy efficiency standards, annual energy consumption is now under 300 kWh for the same kind of model. 

SCC: How important do you feel International Standards are for electrotechnical products/personal interest in climate change? 

LB: If I look back, climate change was identified over 20 years ago. It was always about our carbon footprint. If we want to save the planet, we need more efficient products, even if they cost a little bit more. That’s why I’ve been involved in energy standards, because I believe they’re the best way to get people to use more efficient products. A lot of times in standards, you develop a standard about new equipment or technology, but over time, regulations begin to reference the efficiency standards of that new technology. It’s nice to get financial incentives like those offered to consumers, but those are only for a short period of time – once the market is mature, people have accepted the more efficient technologies, and regulation comes in and affirms their importance. 

For example, LED bulbs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, but now they are a part of regulations in some jurisdictions. Now, it is becoming natural to choose LEDs over incandescent bulbs. I really believe that standards, combined with regulations, are an important aspect of addressing climate change.