On 1 October 2012, the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) Act 2012 came into effect, creating a national framework for product energy efficiency in Australia. The GEMS Regulator replaced the previous state regulators, and is the sole party responsible for administering the legislation in Australia.
The legal instruments that set out the GEMS requirements are the:
- Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Act 2012 (GEMS Act)
- GEMS (Registration Fees) Act 2012
- GEMS Regulation 2012 (GEMS Regulations)
- GEMS (Authorisation Requirements for Testing GEMS Products) Instrument 2013
- GEMS (Fees for GEMS Regulator Services) Instrument
The specific requirements for each product regulated under the GEMS Act—including Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) and Energy Rating Labelling (ERL) requirements—are set out in a further legislative instrument specific to that product type called a GEMS Determination.
Review of GEMS Act
The Australian Government has released the Final Report of the Independent Review of the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Act 2012 (GEMS Act).
The review is a statutory requirement to ensure the GEMS Act remains appropriate and effective in reducing Australia’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Ms Anna Collyer, a partner at law firm Allens, was appointed to undertake the review.
The Final Report provides the findings and recommendations of the independent review. The Final Report has been informed by submissions to the March 2018 discussion paper and the November 2018 draft report, as well as group and one-on-one meetings between the independent reviewer and stakeholders.
Read the Discussion Paper
Read the Draft Report
Is your product regulated?
Many products are covered by energy efficiency regulations and must meet certain regulatory requirements before they can be supplied or sold in Australia or New Zealand.
Depending on the product, this may include Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), energy rating label requirements or both. There are specific requirements relevant to Australia and New Zealand.
Note: the referenced Standards are published individually or jointly by Standards Australia and Standards New Zealand and are available for purchase from SAI Global.
Minimum Energy Performance Standards
What are Minimum Energy Performance Standards?
Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) specify the minimum level of energy performance that appliances, lighting and electrical equipment (products) must meet or exceed before they can be offered for sale or used for commercial purposes.
MEPS are mandatory for a range of products in Australia and New Zealand. These products must be registered through an online register and meet a number of legal requirements before they can be sold in either of these countries. To find out the MEPS requirements for a particular product check the relevant Australian GEMS determination or New Zealand regulation on the regulated products page.
Why MEPS are important
MEPS are an effective way to increase the energy efficiency of products. By specifying a minimum energy performance level inefficient products are prevented from entering the marketplace, and manufacturers are given appropriate signals to increase product efficiency. For consumers, MEPS mean that products available in the market use less energy and have lower running costs over their lifetime.
How MEPS are worked out
The Australian and New Zealand governments work together, and consult with industry, to determine appropriate MEPS for products.
Proposed and future MEPS
MEPS and energy rating label requirements are reviewed periodically to ensure they keep up with advances in technology. As a result, from time to time there may be new or revised MEPS or energy label requirements introduced for regulated products. Also, subject to the findings of rigorous product assessments (see above), MEPS or energy label regulations may also be introduced, from time to time, for new products.
Energy Rating Labels
What is the Energy Rating Label?
The Energy Rating Label, or ERL, provides consumers with energy performance information at point-of-sale on a range of products that are regulated under the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) Act 2012. An ERL will assist a consumer to compare between similar product models through comparing their Star Rating and estimated annual energy consumption.
The ERL is known as a comparative label, as the star rating and energy consumption estimates allow consumers to compare the energy efficiency of different models of a similar size and capacity, and (ideally) choose the most efficient one that meets their needs.
Which products must have an Energy Rating Label?
A range of products are required under the GEMS Act to display an Energy Rating Label (ERL) at their point of sale in Australia.
- Air Conditioners (single phase)
- Clothes washers
- Clothes dryers
- Computer monitors.
What are Standards?
‘Standards’ are published documents that set out specifications and testing procedures to ensure that products are safe, reliable and consistently perform the way they are described. Standards also set out specifications to ensure products meet certain energy performance levels.
Standards play a key role in regulating the energy efficiency of energy using products; however Australia and New Zealand use Standards in a slightly different way:
- Australia: Under the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) Act 2012, specific product requirements are set out in legislative instruments called GEMS Determinations. Product requirements are set out either directly in the Determination, or the Determination refers to the applicable clause in the Standard. The Determination also establishes which version of the relevant Standard is applicable – usually the version that existed at the time the Determination was made.
- New Zealand: The detailed requirements for products regulated under the Energy Efficiency (Energy Using Products) Regulations 2002 (Regulations) are specified in the relevant Australian/New Zealand Standard.
Obtaining copies of the Standards
Standards Australia and Standards New Zealand publish individual and joint Standards. Standards can be purchased from SAI Global and Standards New Zealand. Standards that apply in New Zealand are also available for inspection at EECA’s head office.
The registration page contains a list of the performance and test standards that apply to products regulated under the E3 program.
The specific requirements for each product regulated under the GEMS Act — including Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) and Energy Rating Labelling (ERL) requirements—are set out in a further legislative instrument specific to that product type called a GEMS Determination.
What are GEMS determinations?
A GEMS Determination sets out the requirements to be met by products (in each product class covered by the determination) in order to be legally registered, supplied, or offered for supply in Australia. These can include relevant clauses from Australian Standards.
Standards are separately published documents that set out specifications and testing procedures to ensure that products are safe, reliable, and consistently perform the way they are described. Standards can also set out specifications to ensure products meet certain energy performance levels and other energy efficiency requirements.
Standards Australia and Standards New Zealand publish individual and joint standards. Standards can be purchased from SAI Global and Standards New Zealand. Standards that apply in New Zealand are also available for inspection at EECA’s head office.
Sunsetting does not apply to GEMS Determinations
Recent investigations have revealed that Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards (GEMS) Determinations do not sunset.
This is due to general exemptions in the Legislation Act 2003, which exempt legislative instruments made to facilitate the operation of intergovernmental schemes from sunsetting and disallowance.
The Federal Register of Legislation is being updated to reflect these exemptions for GEMS Determinations.
The Committee overseeing the E3 program will work to revoke or replace GEMS Determinations that are found not to be efficient and effective following consultation, and will consider ongoing review processes for GEMS Determinations. Further information will be communicated to industry at a later date, outlining the mechanism(s) by which GEMS Determinations will be reviewed. Removal/replacement of GEMS Determinations does not change Energy Efficiency (Energy Using Products) Regulations 2002 (the Regulations) used in New Zealand. New Zealand will work (as part of E3) to align the Regulations and Determinations where appropriate.
The GEMS Act underpins the E3 Program in Australia, while the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act 2000 and the Energy Efficiency (Energy Using Products) Regulation 2002 underpin the program in New Zealand. The E3 program is an initiative of the Australian Government, states and territories and the New Zealand Government.
Information about exemptions from sunsetting and disallowance
Legislative instruments made under the Greenhouse and Energy Minimum Standards Act 2012 (GEMS Act) (excluding regulations) are exempt from disallowance under subsection 44(1) of the Legislation Act 2003 (Legislation Act), and GEMS legislative instruments are exempt from sunsetting under subsection 54(1) of the Legislation Act.
Subsections 44(1) and 54(1) of the Legislation Act relevantly provide that instruments are not subject to disallowance and sunsetting where the enabling legislation (not being the Corporations Act 2001) facilitates the establishment or operation of an intergovernmental scheme involving the Commonwealth and one or more States and Territories, and authorises the instrument to be made for the purposes of scheme.
The GEMS Act creates a national framework for product energy efficiency in Australia (the GEMS Scheme). The GEMS Scheme is an intergovernmental scheme, given it is governed by the Inter-governmental Agreement for the GEMS Legislative Scheme, jointly funded and key instruments (including replacement GEMS determinations made under ss 23 and 35 of the GEMS Act) require consent from participating jurisdictions to the terms of the determination before they can be made (see GEMS Act, s 33). GEMS determinations are made for the purposes of this intergovernmental scheme. Therefore, GEMS legislative instruments are exempt from sunsetting and disallowance.
These exemptions were identified in the context of the anticipated sunsetting of the first GEMS legislative instruments made under the GEMS Act (which commenced approximately ten years ago). Information recorded on the Federal Register of Legislation is being updated to clarify that GEMS legislative instruments are exempt from sunsetting under subsection 54(1) of the Legislation Act.
How the legislation works in New Zealand
In New Zealand the legislative instrument for product energy efficiency is the Energy Efficiency (Energy Using Products) Regulations 2002 (NZ Regulations). It is enforced by the New Zealand Regulator, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).
New Zealand MEPS and ERL requirements are outlined on the EECA website under current product standards. A table summarising the testing, MEPS and energy rating labelling standards is also available on the EECA website.
Products registered in Australia are also considered registered under the NZ Regulations, and the product can be supplied in New Zealand provided the energy performance characteristics of that item comply with the standards for that item’s product class. New Zealand product registrations are not recognised in Australia.
How do I find out which GEMS determination or standard applies to my product?
The Products page provides information on which products require MEPS compliance and/or energy rating labels. This page also lists Australian GEMS determinations and New Zealand product standards.
How do I meet regulatory requirements?
To legally supply any product regulated under the GEMS Act, you must complete the following steps:
- Test the product — the product must be tested to prove its energy performance. A test report demonstrates whether your product meets minimum energy performance standards and determines what is declared on the product’s Energy Rating Label (when a label is required). You may need to provide a test report with your application for registration.
- Ensure the product complies — the product must comply with the requirements set out in the Australian regulations. This may include Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) and energy labelling requirements.
- Register the product — a product must be properly registered before it can be offered for supply. It is your responsibility to find out what the regulatory requirements are for your products and to ensure you are meeting them.
What are the product testing requirements?
To show that your product complies with energy efficiency regulations you may need to hold a test report or test report summary and you may be required to provide it as part of the registration process. The test methods and conditions are outlined in the relevant Australian GEMS Determination.
Testing may be undertaken using your own test laboratory, an appropriate third party test facility, or an accredited third party testing laboratory. You may consider using an accredited third party for product testing because of the independent quality assurance and validity it provides. In Australia accreditation is provided by National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) and in New Zealand by International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ).
What is the Compliance program?
In Australia, the GEMS Regulator undertakes a range of compliance activities to ensure that manufacturers and suppliers comply with the regulations. These include monitoring what products are being registered, and verification and enforcement activities.
There are penalties for suppliers who do not comply with the energy efficiency regulations. Full details about offences and penalties are outlined in the GEMS Act.
How do I register a product?
To apply for registration in either country you will need to complete an online application form on the Energy Rating Registration Site.
Scope of the regulations
Any product classes outside the scope of the regulations are considered exclusions. The scope of the regulations is set out in the relevant Australian GEMS Determination or for New Zealand, the relevant product Standard.