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Environmental technology verification: an emerging discipline  


Hopes are high for ETV - environmental technology verification. This emerging practice can help the developers of eco-innovative technologies gain market acceptance by providing an independent assessment of the veracity of their claims about the performance and environmental benefits of their technologies. This verification can be used for many purposes: to provide evidence to the first customers and to investors that the technology really does what it claims, to differentiate from competing technologies, to avoid repeating the same tests for different customers or to support a bid for a public contract.

At European Union level, a pilot programme is underway, which will issue Statements of Verification for technologies in the water treatment and monitoring, materials and waste, and energy sectors. The ETV programme is about a year old, and is one of the initiatives of the Eco-Innovation Action Plan. It is coordinated by the European Commission and representatives from seven EU countries. It is implemented by independent Verification Bodies, including ETA-Danmark. Technical expertise and testing for the ETV process is provided by DANETV, a conglomerate of technology institutes that works in partnership with ETA-Danmark. DANETV also manages a Danish complement to the EU programme, the DANETV programme, in areas not covered by EU ETV.

Thomas Bruun, the managing director of ETA-Danmark, and Mette Tjener Andersson, head of the DANETV programme, spoke about the priorities for ETV in Denmark and the EU ahead of the 2nd ETV Stakeholder Forum, which took place in Hannover, Germany, 7-8 April 2014.

Is interest in ETV increasing?

Thomas Bruun: I think that when you explain to people what it is, the purpose and the value they can get from the verification statement, they are interested. Going from that point to actually applying for ETV is a different matter. What we can see so far is that if the producers and manufacturers can get financial support to obtain the ETV, then they will go for it. But the market pull is not so significant yet that they will make their own investments - not right now - but certainly the interest is there.

Experience shows that it takes up to five years to get a new scheme [such as ETV] established in the market. Obviously, financial incentives from the authorities might speed it up. But it is a new scheme and the value needs to be proved. That takes time, but for sure from the feedback we get now, manufacturers see the value of it. But like all voluntary schemes there also needs to be an awareness in the market from the purchasers that this is a possibility, so it will be more like a market pull, than a manufacturer push.

What progress has been made with the Danish ETV scheme?

Mette Tjener Andersson: We started the Danish scheme in 2009 and had government support for the first four years for verifications. Now there is the possibility to apply for funding support from other authorities in Denmark. We started out as only a Danish programme, and the interest is of course much greater now that we can say it is working at EU level and ETV can be used on the EU market and not just in Denmark. We've done almost 30 verifications in Denmark now.

Thomas Bruun: Because of the EU pilot programme, the structure of ETV has changed a little in Denmark. Until about a year and a half ago, ETA-Danmark was not involved. DANETV did both the verifications and the testing, and they have all the technical competence and expertise. But since DANETV was a conglomerate of five technological institutes, and the requirement in the EU programme was that the verification body should be accredited, we formed the partnership that we have today, in which ETA-Danmark is the verification body, because we can provide the accredited verification process as we are a single legal entity. DANETV continues to support ETA-Danmark with technical expertise and testing facilities.

Mette Tjener Andersson: Danish verifications so far have been in the fields of water, energy and agriculture, with a few in the field of air as well. Denmark is such a small country, so [companies going through the ETV scheme] are looking at international markets. In Denmark there was already a scheme for agricultural technologies, with something like an ETV for technology approved to be used by farmers, so that is why agriculture has been one focus. One example of a Danish ETV is Dall Energy. They made a biomass furnace with very low emissions of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. It is a frontrunner in that field and we have verified it. [Note: the Dall Energy ETV Verification Statement is available at http://www.etv-denmark.com/files/air/Dall%20Energy%20Verification_statement.pdf [1 MB].

Thomas Bruun: One client, the Danish company JIMCO [which makes air and water purification units] has an ETV from DANETV but has gone further and is now going through the EU ETV - a repeat client so to speak. [Note: the JIMCO ETV Verification Statement is available at http://www.etv-denmark.com/files/air/JIMCO%20Verification%20Statement.pdf  [150 KB].

What are the main challenges for ETV verification bodies?

Thomas Bruun: Disseminating the information about the ETV concept is the most important issue right now, along with the sharing of information between verification bodies. We are just a few in Europe, and it is definitely important that we get to meet each other to share experience and knowledge. The European Commission has an overall strategy and provides funds to support the verification bodies in the effort to spread knowledge about ETV. There are many different projects going on to establish websites and outreach programmes to ensure the success of ETV. Another key issue is to support SMEs - that they are encouraged to pursue ETV as a tool to get their technology onto the market.

Over what time period can we make a judgement about ETV?

Thomas Bruun: Experience shows that it take a while for a new scheme to be established on the market, so I think it will be at least three years before we can actually draw some conclusions, and that in principle will be just on the uptake of the scheme. If we want to also assess the environmental impact, it will have to be done over a longer period because changes in the environment don't happen overnight. But in terms of the concept of ETV, I think over the next three to five years it will be valuable to monitor what goes on, just to see if technologies with an ETV are chosen more over technologies without an ETV.