Meet Marie Baton, Europe Lead, Policy & Analysis Team
In celebration of CLASP’s 20th anniversary, each month we profile one of our team members. This month, we sat down with Marie Baton, Europe Lead for CLASP’s Policy & Analysis Team.
Marie, tell us about your educational and professional background.
I studied engineering, but not in the traditional sense. In France, I earned a degree in agricultural engineering, with a specialization in the environmental sciences. After graduating, I became a project engineer at the French Agency for Energy and Environment (ADEME) and held that position for nearly four years until I moved to Belgium. I then became a policy analyst at a regional energy institute called Brussels Environment (Institut Bruxellois de Gestion de l’Environement / Brusselse Instituut voor Milieubeheer), where I remained for almost two years.
After two years mostly evaluating regional policies, I began to crave a position where my work would have a more direct and broader environmental impact. That’s when I discovered CLASP was hiring. In this new role, I would work with policymakers to shape tangible energy efficiency policy measures. I was excited to begin working with CLASP because it seemed hands-on and dealt with the urgency required to take on the climate crisis.
How did you begin in energy efficiency work & what keeps you interested in the field?
I began my journey in the energy efficiency field in 2004. At that time I was working on local, national and strategic-level capacity, which involved the energy efficiency of buildings and environmental management systems. It was in late 2010 that I joined CLASP and continued working in energy efficiency, but switched to a different scale — appliances and equipment.
I’m motivated about the work that I do — now, more than ever — because I feel a sense of urgency about our unsustainable energy systems. A nice thing about efficiency when you feel the need for rapid action is that it’s a concept that is broadly acceptable by policymakers, so it can be implemented quite rapidly. But by orienting competition and progress, those policies can have a huge impact on the system. We know that energy consumption has to be reduced in developed countries, and that developing countries are very much increasing their access to energy services, which increases their consumption. I see CLASP as uniquely positioned to help on both fronts, which I find exciting. We’re working to correct the past lack of attention for energy efficiency in industrialized countries, while supporting developing countries in increasing their efficiency, ideally leapfrogging developed countries.
What is your role at CLASP & what are you currently working on?
Until a few years ago I worked primarily for our European program. Specifically, I’ve been supporting the European Commission in defining or revising the regulations for minimum energy efficiency standards of products and European Energy Labeling. Now, I also support more of CLASP’s work around the globe – especially on residential and commercial refrigeration, thanks to the expertise I’ve acquired through the work in Europe. We began reviewing the European regulations in 2015, which began my deep-dive into refrigerator regulations and test methods. So, now I’m a resource for other programs at CLASP that work on fridges. But my work continues to expand in Europe. I’m currently working on water efficiency regulations for taps & shower heads, and heating and cooling — air conditioners and boilers.
What makes refrigeration so interesting to you?
Refrigeration is interesting because it’s one of the first products that countries look into when considering energy efficiency regulation. In many countries, there is still a wide range of efficiency on the market, and no strong link between price and efficiency, so they are a really good client for regulation. But also, they’re much more complex than you could imagine – both in technology and in use. I like to think about of how they are used, the services they offer – and to set appropriate rules to really need to think about the use conditions. There is the typical household fridge that might be used in Europe, the US, or Australia – there we’re thinking about adding “pantry” compartments that would use less energy and better preserve some types of food. In remote areas, an off-grid refrigerator may be used by more than one family, may have completely different usage patterns and conditions, especially if its location becomes a place of congregation
There is also the question of refrigerant gases. We’ve identified the types of refrigerant gases that aren’t a problem for the ozone layer, have a low global warming potential, and have no negative impact on the energy efficiency of the appliance. One more reason why refrigerators represent a large potential when it comes to fighting the climate crisis.
What circular economy work is being undertaken in the European Union?
The European Commission has identified ecodesign and energy labelling as tools to support the transition towards a circular economy. Concretely, it means that the recent regulations (including refrigerators, TVs, washing machines, dishwashers and lighting) include provisions about the durability, reparability and recyclability of products, as well as the use of some substances. Those include for example requirements about the minimum period during which spare parts shall remain available once a product is released. There is a list of critical parts in the regulation – typically the parts that break most frequently. By ensuring that those parts remain available and can be replaced without damaging the product, we’re increasing the product’s lifetime. There are also requirements on how quickly the spare parts have to be delivered, to limit the problem of the waiting time being a barrier to repair. Standardization work is ongoing to define other types of requirements and make sure that everything can be properly measured and verified.
Can you tell us about the work that you’re doing on labeling in the European Union?
Europe is just about to publish a welcome update to the energy label of five product groups – refrigerators, lighting, televisions, washing machines and dishwashers. The energy efficiency labels for those products have been outdated for years. Some product categories are worse than others, and there was clearly a need for ambitious revisions. To talk about fridges again, since 2012, the least efficient allowed class on the market has been… A+! An A+ score seems good, right? Well it has been the least efficient you could get for more than 7 years already. Unsurprisingly, consumer research by CLASP showed that the A+++ to D scale – as opposed to the original A to G – confused consumers and significantly altered the motivational effect of the top efficiency class. The 2017 recast of the framework labelling directive announced the rescale but it still had to be implemented product per product. That is what is starting to happen with those 5 revisions. The good news is that beyond the return to the A to G scale, the new labelling framework sets rules for future rescales, ensuring that the energy efficiency scale doesn’t become obsolete, like in the past. The European Commission is also putting in place a product registration database that will facilitate market monitoring and timely rescale.
After nine years, what continues to make working with CLASP enjoyable?
As I explained above, CLASP is an obvious place to be when you feel the urgency of taking action against the climate crisis. It’s also a privilege to work with a bunch of really smart and nice people who are extremely mission-driven. They are all committed to making the world a better place and often make me think of that quote,” Be the change you want to see in the world”. Also, there is more “we” than “I” at CLASP. Although everyone is passionate about what they’re doing there is very little self-promotion. When you speak to someone at CLASP you’ll often hear them use “we.” “We did that” … “we found that” … That’s the collaborative part of our work culture; we’re united in our “CLASPiness.”