The renewable energy sector was in high spirits yesterday (2 June) as MEPs decided to exclude windmills and solar panels from an EU law aimed at curbing the use of toxic chemicals in household electric and electronic goods.

The European Parliament's environment committee amended a proposal on the recast Directive on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS).

The directive currently applies to household goods and covers everything from TVs to toasters and computers.

The recast intended to widen the directive's scope from household appliances to all electrical and electronic devices, unless specifically excluded.

But the prospect of an open scope had made renewable energy producers anxious as they were concerned about being subjected to legislation that the fossil fuel industry would not have to comply with, putting them at a competitive disadvantage.


MEPs seemed to take on board the industry's concerns and specifically spelled out that chemicals used in the manufacturing of renewable energy products, such as solar panels or windmills, should be granted exclusion from the directive.

Other products which won exclusion from the directive include large-scale installations and industrial tools, and material used for military vehicles and equipment.

All exclusions will be subject to a review clause by December 2014, the committee said, adding that this could provide an opportunity for the European Commission to suggest further exclusions.

The committee vote came as a relief to the solar industry, which has been battling to prove that harmful substance bans originally designed for disposable household devices should not apply to the renewable sector (EurActiv 22/04/10).

Substances listed for further evaluation

MEPs also listed a number of substances which are currently not restricted as priorities for further review, with a view to a possible ban in the future. These include halogenated flame retardants and PVC.

The European Commission will carry out an assessment of substances for future restriction, assisted by MEPs and EU member states, who will also be able to propose substances for examination, the committee said.

The environment committee's report will be voted on by the full Parliament in its July plenary.