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EU directive on energy-using products could force monumental changes

I’ve written about two European Union directives before, WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and RoHS (Restrictions on the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment) in late 2004 and in late 2005. Both directives are having a huge impact on products produced and/or imported and sold anywhere in the European Union. But if you thought they had a big impact, wait until you hear about E.U. directive 2005/32/EC otherwise known as a directive on every EuP (energy-using product).

The E.U., a bureaucracy that perhaps even overshadows our own, set a date of July 6, 2007, to put the directive in place. Its goal is “establishing a framework for the setting of eco-design requirements for energy-using products [EuP].”

EuP will require manufacturers to calculate the energy used to produce, transport, sell, use, and dispose of almost every one of its products. It will require that the manufacturer go all the way back to the energy used when extracting the raw materials to make its product, including all subassemblies and components. And in time, it will set limits on a product-by-product basis of how much energy can be used in a product’s entire lifecycle.

One analyst group, Tetra Tech, in a fact sheet, explains it this way: “The scope of the directive is very wide, being potentially applicable to any energy-using product … it applies to all energy sources, although it is likely that only those using electricity or solid, liquid, and gaseous fuels will be subject to implementing measures.”

If you think I’m joking, go to europa.eu.int, select your language, put EuP in the search window, and read it for yourself.

There is no denying at this point in time that if we value the lives of our children and grandchildren we must take positive steps to improve our environment. But that doesn’t mean it will come without pain.

“When it comes into force, it will require a level of analysis and information collection that will be fairly onerous,” understates Eric Larkin, CTO of Arena Solutions, in talking about the impact of EuP on just on IT. Arena is a hosted product-lifecycle-management SaaS (software as a service) company.

Here’s why Larkin believes as he does. Article 8, section 3 of EuP says in part the following: “After placing an EuP … on the market … the manufacturer or its authorized representative shall keep relevant documents relating to the conformity assessment performed and declarations of conformity issued available for inspection by Member States for a period of 10 years after the last of that EuP has been manufactured.”

The burden will fall heavily on IT departments that must comply with a two-and-a-half-page list of “management system requirements for assessing conformity” for officials. (See Annex V of the document.)

Although Article 16 includes a three-year transitional period, some products with a “high potential for cost-effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions” will be regulated much sooner. Among the list of products in that category are office equipment and consumer electronics.

Finally, here’s a snippet from Article 1, paragraph 2, that demonstrates the scope of this directive: “The directive provides for the setting of requirements which the energy-using products covered by implementing measures must fulfill in order for them to be placed on the market.”

For more details on EuP’s impact on IT, supply chain, and software, see my column next week.

Editorial Notes: Contributor Rick Dworsky writes: This new European rule may be a sleeper tsunami that improves the design of Energy Using Products worldwide. The E.U. market is too large for global corporations to ignore. Wether or not this rule will have real teeth, or if "a three-year transitional period" is soon enough to significantly mitigate the Peak Oil catastrophe remains to be seen. The E.U. deserves credit for at least attempting to do something, standing in stark contrast against many others.

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