The Association of Manufacturers and suppliers of Power Systems and ancillary equipment


What is the applicability of the WEEE Directive to Generating Set and Associated Products?

Introduction

The EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) WEEE Directive, 2012/19/EU sets out the requirements for dealing with Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment within the European Community and supersedes the previous WEEE Directive, 2002/96/EU. Member states of the European Community were required to enact laws and other instruments necessary to comply with the Directive by 14th February 2014.

Transitional Arrangements

In order to allow producers of EEE to conform to the new requirements, a transitional period exists from 13th August 2012 to 14th August 2018, where the previous Directive’s applicability to EEE products is maintained. From the latter date, the Directive applies to all EEE unless it can be demonstrated that the product is subject to one of the exclusion clauses in the Directive. Some guidance on the more commonly applicable Large Scale exclusion clauses is mentioned below.

Scope Changes

There are several key changes in the Directive – however, the change most likely to affect most generating set and associated product producers is the switch to “Open Scope” meaning that all EEE with a rated voltage not exceeding 1000 V is deemed to be included unless it can be shown that an exclusion clause applies. This means that whereas during the currency of the previous WEEE Directive and during the transitional period mentioned above, products were generally not in scope of the Directive unless listed either specifically or by group; after 14th August 2018, unless they can be demonstrated, by the manufacturer, to be covered by an exclusion clause, they will be in scope.

In respect of power generation and associated equipment, this assertion is further exemplified in the Directive, Annex III:

  • Clause 4 – Large equipment (any external dimension more than 50 cm) … “equipment for the generation of electric currents.”; and
  • Clause 5 – Small equipment (no external dimension more than 50 cm) … “equipment for the generation of electric currents.”

Although generating set products are not specifically mentioned in Annex IV, the list is stated as being non-exhaustive. In addition, equipment normally associated with generating sets, such as control and instrumentation and switchgear are also likely to fall into scope by virtue of the transfer and measurement functions, included in the Directive’s definition of EEE:

  • ‘electrical and electronic equipment’ or ‘EEE’ means equipment which is dependent on electric currents or electromagnetic fields in order to work properly and equipment for the generation, transfer and measurement of such currents and fields and designed for use with a voltage rating not exceeding 1 000 volts for alternating current and 1 500 volts for direct current;

Exclusion Clauses

There are two exclusion clauses contained in the WEEE Directive that may be useful to producers of generating sets and associated products. These are known as the Large Scale exclusion clauses and share common names with those in the RoHS Directive (2011/65/EC). Furthermore, the WEEE Directive FAQ document indicates that the definitions in the RoHS FAQ document shall be used.

In determining the applicability of these exclusions to generating set products, the definitions need to be carefully understood:

  • “Large Scale Stationary Industrial Tools” (LSSIT) means a large size assembly of machines, equipment, and/or components, functioning together for a specific application, permanently installed and de-installed by professionals at a given place, and used and maintained by professionals in an industrial manufacturing facility or research and development facility;
  • “Large Scale Fixed Installation” (LSFI) means a large-size combination of several types of apparatus and, where applicable, other devices, which:
    i. are assembled, installed and de-installed by professionals;
    ii. are intended to be used permanently as part of a building or a structure at a pre-defined and dedicated location; and
    iii. can only be replaced by the same specifically designed equipment;

Although the definition for LSSIT may be felt to be useful, close examination of the exact wording shows that this is highly application-specific. Thus, a generating set installed in a manufacturing factory may be able to be shown to be subject to this exclusion clause; however, the same model of generator, installed in a shopping mall, for example, would not be.

Many permanently installed generator installations above 375 kW (this size is given in the RoHS FAQs of December 2012) will be able to be shown to be subject to the LSFI exclusion clause, however, this clause specifically excludes generating sets used for temporary application, such as rental units for hire. The specific clause is on page 27 of the draft guidance FAQs for WEEE and is in the guidance FAQs for RoHS as follows:

  • Equipment that has partial mobility, for example semi-mobile machinery running on rails, can be considered ‘permanently installed’. On the other hand, equipment that is intended to be used on different sites, or in different locations, while it is providing its useful function is not considered as permanent. It is an indicator of permanent use if the equipment is not readily re-locatable (or ‘mobile intended’) and if it is intended for use at one single location.

A generating set that can be demonstrated to be an integral component part of an electrical distribution system that is itself a LSFI is likely to be able to be classified as LSFI. It is always the responsibility of the manufacturer or the person placing the product on the market to provide the proof of applicability of the exclusion clause.

Conclusion

The recast of the WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU has brought generating sets of all types and sizes, with a voltage rating not exceeding 1000 volts, potentially into scope of the WEEE Directive. A transitional period is likely to apply to these products, as they were not mentioned in the previous WEEE Directive 2002/96/EC. The transitional period runs until 14th August 2018.

Installations that are rated above 375 kW may be able to be demonstrated as being subject to the large scale exclusion clauses; however, these can be model and application-specific and are not general exclusions across all products for all producers. In particular, products that are not permanently installed at a pre-defined and dedicated location will not qualify for these exclusions.

Generating sets and associated products rated below 375 kW are likely to fall into scope of the Directive unless specifically designed for military application and placed on the market specifically for this purpose.

Producers of products that are likely to fall into scope are advised to seek further advice on the precise applicability of the Directive to their products.

Important Note

Absence of case law means that much of this advice is based on current understanding, a number of draft documents and is subject to revision at any time. Any decisions should be verified with an expert on European Law on a case-by-case basis.

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