All public-sector purchasers of office equipment in Europe will in future be obliged to buy brands that carry the Energy Star logo, following a vote in the European Parliament.

"This regulation gives us the perfect opportunity to introduce a novelty: for the first time in EU history, common energy efficiency specifications for public procurement will apply to all member states and the European institutions," said Nikolaos Vakalis, the member of the European Parliament who led the debate.

In addition to making the Energy Star logo obligatory for public procurements of equipment, the new law formalises an agreement reached last December with the US government to extend the Energy Star plan for another five years, with higher energy efficiency requirements than those in place now.

The European Commission initiated the Energy Star plan in 2001 but it took a long time to gain acceptance in the market. In 2003 the US joined the plan and a database of companies that met the required standards was created.

Since 2003 more firms have been striving to join the Energy Star plan and the energy efficiency requirements for various office tools including PCs, printers and copiers, have been raised. Today the database includes 17 makers of laptops, 18 desktop manufacturers, 15 printer makers and four scanner manufacturers.

The EU and US agreement signed in December is expected to yield 30 terawatt-hours in electricity savings - the approximate equivalent of the annual electricity demand in Hungary - in the EU over the next three years.