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Voltage reduction and kettles boiling slowly

February 5th, 1995
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Britain is in slow-motion due to an EU measure forced into existence by an EU quango, which has reduced the electricity voltage into domestic homes. As a result kettles and other appliances have all been affected.
(
Sunday Express, p3, 5 February 1995; Mail on Sunday, p15, 5 February 1995)

Standardising electricity voltages across the EU has been welcomed by the UK Government, and stems from work done by CENELEC, an acronym for the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standards. This is a private sector standardisation body, and is totally independent of European institutions. In no way is it an EU quango, as it is not subsidised by the EU, nor by national governments. In fact it is an industry body, in which national standardisation organisations, consumer associations and trade unions are represented. Its 18 members include a number of central and eastern European countries, and the Committee, in its own time, decides on matters of common interest.
According to the relevant recent CENELEC standard all EU members will have to lower their voltages from 240 V to 230V, between 1995 and 2003. In the first phase of voltage transition in England, Scotland and Wales, wide tolerances will be acceptable, gradually converging over time. Northern Ireland is already aligned with the European standard.

Background

The then UK Minister for Energy, Tim Eggar MP, welcomed this decision, saying it would prove beneficial to manufacturers and consumers of electrical goods. “After 1995 manufacturers will be able to offer single product ranges for sale throughout the European Community”, he said. “This will remove a perceived barrier to trade and so further the objectives of the Single Market. Consumers will have greater choice and flexibility in the purchase and use of electrical appliances” he continued.

The Member Companies of the Electricity Association stated: “For Great Britain, the adoption of the European standard will require no change to customers’ existing equipment or to their supply arrangements. Customers can be confident that the changes will not lead to any reduction in the quality, safety or reliability of their electricity supply”.

“However, the change will help simplify the design and testing of low voltage appliances and will provide customers with greater choice. A single rated voltage throughout Europe will be less confusing to customers and should therefore result in improved safety”.

The Commission has not been informed about any safety problems as a result of the Low Voltage Directive. Up until now none of the Member States has contested, through the application of the safeguard provisions laid down by this Directive, harmonised standards to which the Directive refers. It seems, therefore, that Member States are of the opinion that the safety margins applied for testing provide for a correct level of overall safety of the electrical equipment.

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