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Towards European Sectorial Testing Networks for Environmental Technologies

Final Report Summary - TESTNET (Towards European Sectorial Testing Networks for Environmental Technologies)

TESTNET was a European project selected to design, develop and test an environmental technology verification (ETV) system. It aimed to develop an independent system to provide the market with credible performance data.

The development of ETV programs is a recent phenomenon originating from North America. Just as ecolabelling provides guidance to consumers seeking to purchase environmentally friendly products, verification programs have been designed as a means to accelerate market acceptance of innovative technologies. This is achieved by providing technology users with information about performance, thereby decreasing the uncertainty in purchasing decisions. Verification can be defined as the mechanism or process for establishing or confirming the performance of a technology, product or process, under specific, predetermined criteria or protocols and adequate quality assurance procedures.

Surveys and the analysis of outcomes based on actual or potential market penetration scenarios showed that sold (or to be sold) ETV verified technologies achieve emission reductions and thus have positive impacts on the environment and on human health. ETV helps firms with regulatory compliance, contributes to technology acceptance by end users and promotes scientific advancement.

Verification must not be confused with certification. The former involves the independent assessment of a technology's performance without any judgement of it. Certification normally goes one step further by guaranteeing that every specimen of a product is meeting standards or defined performance criteria. ETV will not rank technologies or compare their performance, neither will it label technologies as acceptable or unacceptable.

The overall strategic objective for a European system for ETV is to enhance the application of innovative environmentally sound technologies (ESTs) by purchasers and permitters, both inside and outside of Europe. Since 2005, the European Union has launched a number of studies and of research and demonstration projects in this field.

Since 2004, the European Union has adopted the Environmental Technology Action Plan (ETAP). Key objective is to encourage the development and wider use of environmental technologies as one of the measures to ensure Europe's competitiveness in global world economics. One of the identified ETAP priorities is to bridge the gap between innovation and application. Implementing ETAP includes improved testing, performance verification and standardisation of environmental technologies.

TESTNET covered two EST areas: water technologies and cleaner production. In both technology areas, the relevant monitoring technologies were included. Water technology concerns drinking and process water, water reuse and waste water treatment. The application areas are mainly industrial, municipal and agriculture. Cleaner production is a rather wide area. It focuses on industrial applied technologies for the reduction of waste, improved use of raw materials, reduction of emissions to water, air and soil, etc. Industries like chemistry (bulk, specialties and fine), food, pharmaceutical, agro, (solid) waste treatment etc. are typical application areas.

In the context of water treatment technologies (and related water quality monitoring) and of cleaner production, promising environmentally sound technologies and innovative solutions possibly suitable for verification are identified. Different kinds of technological solutions and societal developments and related constrains in order to develop the ETV system sufficiently responsive in view of future markets are examined.

Information on technological and societal developments that may affect the decision-making processes of different stakeholders, such as technology developers, purchasers, permitters, financers and researchers is provided to support building the ETV system. Possible roles and contributions of ETV systems in the dynamics of RTD activities and market entry of water treatment technologies (and water quality monitoring) and of cleaner production are identified.

When looking at the developments of monitoring and treatment technologies, it is possible to see that they will enable fast and remote detection and control of water quality and quantity in water resources, supply and sewer systems and in industrial and agricultural water systems. The set of existing and novel techniques will result in a reduced need for water abstraction from natural resources, lower water consumption, better protection of ground- and surface-water, costs savings and hygienic safety. There will be new opportunities for the control and treatment of water processes that will lead to efficiency improvements in the management of resources, and the quality of outputs and better environmental quality. The improved understanding of chemical process supports the development of new water quality monitoring and treatment technologies which enables better modelling and simulation and will ultimately lead to improvements in the planning, development and management of water resources. The ETV system should thus in the short time be ready to verify new sensor and measurement technologies, monitoring systems, as well as new biological, chemical and physical water treatment technologies.

Cleaner production is a very broad and complex concept, including a wide range of innovation themes. The cleaner production approach is strongly eligible approach in our society and especially cost savings tend to favour clean production. In a narrow sense, cleaner production refers to process innovation, and an effective ETV-system should be based on a holistic life cycle assessment. In designing the ETV system in cleaner production scope, it is extremely important to consider the possible overlaps between ETV system (directed to new technologies and innovations) and existing certified environmental management systems (directed to actual production plants / processes), like ISO 14001 and EMAS, as well as the other environmental analyses linked to LCA and eco-labelling. A new verification system should be synchronised as much as possible to the existing systems in order to avoid extra cost. Verification protocol is urgent especially in the cleaner production areas as follows:
1) new business models in manufacturing industry;
2) process intensification in chemical processing technologies;
3) ICT-based control systems in achieving cleaner production; 4) purification and formulation engineering in chemical processing technologies;
5) biorefinery solutions;
6) nanotechnological applications;
7) life cycle material design.