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Brazil Is Driving Down Consumer Costs by Revving Up Efficiency

Appliance efficiency is key for making critical equipment affordable, improving access to basic services like refrigeration.

Alexia Ross

Brazil is one of the world’s most unequal countries, with 24% of the population living in poverty as of 2022. Millions of people in the dense, low-income communities known as favelas struggle to access the energy needed to keep their lights on, forcing many to turn to dangerous, illegal alternatives like electricity theft.

Inequalities in Brazilian energy access are glaring. Basic services like cooling and cooking are becoming increasingly cost prohibitive to households with fewer resources. Getting affordable, efficient appliances into the hands of more Brazilians is critical to protecting the country’s health, productivity, and economic sustainability.

Take refrigeration, for example. According to recent UN data, about a third of Brazilians face moderate or severe food insecurity. Putting more efficient refrigerators on the market can reduce energy bills, promote food security, and drive appliance affordability.

Understanding the importance of this opportunity, Brazil’s government revised its refrigerator minimum efficiency policy in 2023 with technical support from CLASP.

Efficiency drives affordability

While the new policy was being debated, appliance manufacturers implemented a mass media campaign to stoke public fear. They claimed that removing the least-efficient refrigerators from the market would make refrigeration unaffordable to average Brazilians, predicting that all refrigerators would cost more than US$1,000 under the new rule.

This proved to be far from the truth.

Within days of the refrigerator policy’s implementation, Brazilian manufacturer Esmaltec introduced a new, high-efficiency refrigerator listed for only US$358 — well within the average historic price range. Whirlpool, Brazil’s largest manufacturer, also announced that its prices would not increase as a result of the policy.

Other nations that have passed ambitious new appliance policies have seen similar results. When a country raises its appliance energy efficiency levels, manufacturers are prompted to increase production of innovative technologies that meet the market’s new requirements. As production volumes increase, the upfront prices of more-efficient equipment like air conditioners, stoves, and lightbulbs drop as the market for these products becomes more competitive. The cost savings increase over an efficient appliance’s lifetime due to reduced energy use.

In Brazil, CLASP anticipates that this trend will extend to the full domestic refrigerator market. The new refrigerator policy is expected to save consumers an average of US$164 on electricity bills over the lifetime of the appliance.

Policymakers have proven tools on hand 

Energy labels and minimum efficiency policies are proven policymaking tools to reduce upfront appliance costs and cut household energy use. Brazil’s government has committed to improving appliance efficiency in the upcoming years — opening the floodgates for affordable, planet-friendly appliances for all Brazilians.

In 2024, CLASP is supporting Brazilian policymakers in developing minimum efficiency policy and labels for lighting, as well as the country’s first-ever minimum efficiency policies for commercial air conditioners and refrigerators.

CLASP’s report, Net Zero Heroes: Scaling Efficient Appliances for Climate Change Mitigation, Adaptation & Resilience, offers ambitious efficiency targets for the most impactful appliances and equipment. Explore our recommendations here.

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