Drives and Controls Magazine
EU plans tougher motor efficiency regs – and to add VSDs
Published:  03 November, 2015

The European Commission wants to extend its energy-efficiency regulations affecting electric motors to save a further 22.3TWh per year across the European Union by 2030.

The Commission is proposing to raise minimum efficiency levels on some types of motor, introduce regulations for smaller motors and for VSDs (variable-speed drives), remove the option to use VSDs with lower-efficiency motors, and extend the regulations to include specialised motors such as explosion-proof and brake types.

The Commission’s proposals were outlined by Dr Paolo Bertoldi from the EC’s Joint Research Centre, at the recent Eemods (energy efficiency in motor-driven systems) conference in Finland.

The new measures are needed to help meet the EC’s 2030 target of cutting greenhouse gas emission levels by 40% compared to 1990 levels, as well as cutting energy consumption by 27% by that date.

The biggest savings – 9.9TWh/year, or 44% of the total being targeted – will come from introducing a minimum efficiency rating of IE2 for small three-phase motors with ratings from 120–750W. To avoid loopholes, the EC wants to include all motors, even those integrated into products. A similar measure for single-phase motors in the same power range will save a further 4.6TWh/year.

The Commission is proposing to make IE3 the minimum efficiency for large low-voltage motors from 375–1,000kW, as well as for medium-voltage motors with same ratings. Although these large motors are sold in relatively small numbers, their high power ratings and typically long operating hours mean that they can make significant contribution to energy savings. The EC estimates that the annual savings from these measures would amount to 3.1TWh for the LV motors and 1.1TWh for the MV machines.

The Commission wants most of the above measures to come into force on 1 January, 2018. The MV motors (with nominal voltage ratings from 1–6.6kV) would be added two years later, after a suitable standard has been developed.

January 2018 is also the target date for extending the regulations to include explosion-proof and brake motors, which have so far been exempted. Brake motors will still be excluded if the brake is an integral part of the motor that cannot be separated for testing purposes. The savings from adding these specialised motors to the scheme are expected to amount to 0.9TWh/year by 2030.

For the first time, the European Commission is proposing to bring variable-speed drives within the scope of its mandatory energy-saving regulations by demanding that they comply with the IE1 specifications defined in prEN 50598-2. (This is different from the IE ratings for motors.) By removing the worst-performing VSDs from the market from the start of 2018, the EC expects to save at least 1TWh/year by 2030.

Finally, from January 2018, the Commission wants to remove the current option of using an IE2 motor with a VSD, instead of having to specify an IE3 machine, for motors with ratings from 7.5–375kW. Bertoldi told the Eemods conference that this will simplify the regulations and market surveillance, adding that VSDs are not needed in all applications ­– with fixed loads, a soft-starter can be a better option. Removing the VSD+IE2 option will save an estimated 2.7TWh/year by 2030.

Dr Paolo Bertoldi outlined the European Commission's proposals at the Eemods meeting in FinlandPhoto: Brendan Delany

The European Commission’s proposed changes could affect up to 89 million motors and more than four million variable-speed drives sold in the EU every year.

Even with the extended regulations, there will still be some types of motor that are exempt, including:

•  motors, such as DC machines, with mechanical commutators;

•  increased safety motors, which are difficult to produce in high-efficiency versions;

•  motors in cordless or battery-operated equipment;

•  motors in hand-held equipment whose weight is supported by the hand during use (because high-efficiency motors tend to heavier, and this equipment tends to have shorter operating hours); and

•  motors integrated into machines that cannot practically be tested separately.

Dr Bertoldi told the Eemods audience that there are still substantial opportunities to improve energy efficiency, with two-thirds of the economic potential to improve efficiency remaining untapped in the period to 2035.