Since 1970, when the National Environmental Protection Act was enacted and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established to enforce it, there has been an increase in environmental awareness and the number of state and federal environmental regulations. Environmental laws can have a positive impact on the health and safety of people and the planet. However, current regulations may tend to lock in existing technologies and discourage innovation.
Environmental technologies are developed for the purpose of recovering bi-products, minimizing waste, and reducing emissions, energy consumption, and material input. According to the European Commission, regulation plays a key role in driving environmental innovations. The commission has stated that the focus on green technology should be expanded to include targeting environmental challenges and achieving objectives through eco-innovation.
Innovations in environmental technology are also needed in the U.S. For example, in an analysis published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers concluded that the rate of aviation fuel efficiency improvements has decreased since the 1970’s due to the slower rate of technological advancements in engine design, materials used for airframes, and aerodynamic design.
The problem, according to Green Biz, is not lack of innovation, but that current environmental technology performance certification involves standards that have been written with too little flexibility, and designed only for existing technology. The limitations these standards impose may exclude or minimize the benefits of newly developed technology, impairing its development and locking in technology already in place.
As reported by Green Biz, the EPA launched the Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) program in 1995. ETV establishes a uniform system throughout the U.S. that supersedes state law and helps accelerate the process of entering new environmental technology into the market by delivering credible performance data. The U.S. program was successful and an ETV program was subsequently established in Canada in 1997.
ETV differs from other existing verification schemes. It tests case-by-case and assesses each technology against its own characteristics. The process is flexible enough to accommodate new techniques and designs, and with ETV, manufacturers are able to demonstrate that their technology exceeds requirements under current regulations.
Under existing regulations and current standards, new technologies that have little or no proof of performance cannot be categorized. ETV and similar programs can help facilitate the uptake of new environmental technology. The European Commission launched EU-ETV in 2013. The program is designed specifically to verify technology performance claims and help new SMEs enter the market faster.