You have been hearing about the EPEAT for PV ecolabel with ultra low carbon footprint criteria. Let’s dig into EPEAT a little bit. Subsequent pieces will dive into the details, but let’s look at the overall process first.
EPEAT has been around since 2006. It was originally developed in collaboration with the US EPA, and an NGO (The Green Electronics Council, now the Global Electronics Council) was formed to take it forward and administer it. EPEAT was developed as a broad sustainability purchasing tool for office electronics products such as phones, faxes, copiers and computers. EPEAT is a Type 1 ecolabel under ISO 14024 and the GEC is ANSI accredited to implement EPEAT. EPEAT has been widely used by government agencies (national, state and federal, EU) and private sector entities to facilitate the acquisition of billions of dollars worth of more sustainable office products. The PV and Inverter category was added to EPEAT in 2021, and in 2023 carbon footprint criteria were added to the PV and Inverter category.
The Structure of EPEAT
EPEAT is a tiered system. For each product category there are a set of required ESG criteria that every applicant must meet. These minimum criteria earn the bronze level EPEAT recognition. There are also optional criteria; meeting these criteria help companies accrue additional points towards the silver and gold level EPEAT recognition for their products. The criteria of course are different for different product categories. EPEAT has multiple criteria across varying ESG categories for every product category.
For each product category the relevant criteria are developed through a voluntary consensus based process with multiple stakeholders, such as those followed by UL, NSF and ASTM, with opportunities for public comment. All criteria are transparent and publicly available. Every three years the criteria for each product category are reviewed to determine if they are still relevant or require updating. Earning the EPEAT ecolabel: Companies seeking to demonstrate that they meet the relevant criteria and register their products with EPEAT must submit all of the required information (detailed in the criteria) to one of the 8 GEC approved conformance assurance bodies (CABS). CABs are located in the US, EU and China, and include organizations like TUV Rhineland, UL and the Chinese Electronics Standardization Institute – Certification. Companies must satisfy the CAB that they meet all of the relevant criteria. Once a company earns the EPEAT ecolabel and their products are listed in the EPEAT registry they are routinely audited through a continuous monitoring program during which they have to demonstrate that they still meet the criteria.
Using the EPEAT Ecolabel
Public and private buyers use EPEAT in specifying products. The US Government has adopted EPEAT as a preferred purchasing element of the federal acquisition process, including for PPAs, and many corporations use EPEAT to guide their purchasing of office electronics. E-commerce companies like Amazon use EPEAT registration for products to inform customers’ purchase decisions. Lightsource bp has touted EPEAT for PV as a way for them to secure sustainably produced PV modules and reduce the carbon payback time for projects. Buyers can use EPEAT in a variety of ways – as an outright specification for all or a portion of purchases, as a value added criteria or as required information in a bid.