Brazil: INMETRO Changes Certification to Counter Industry Complaints

There has been a change in the Brazilian Labelling Programme, PBE: The National Institute of Metrology, Quality and Technology, INMETRO, has simplified solar thermal certification in its new decree (Portaria n.° 159), which was published on 19 March 2015 (see the attached document) and will become mandatory in September 2015. The decree is INMETRO’s response to the criticism expressed by stakeholders from the Brazilian solar thermal industry during last year’s public consultation process. Back then, DASOL, the Solar Heating Department of the Brazilian Association of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning, Ventilation and Heating, ABRAVA, had asked the government to take the hassle out of certification by not forcing small companies to implement a quality management programme as required by certification model 5 or to test samples of production batches as demanded by model 7. These had been the two options established by basic decree Portaria n.° 352 published on 6 July 2012.
 
The new decree has done away with model 7 (testing of batch samples) in favour of certification model 3, which has actually been the standard model for the labelling programme and has already been in use on a voluntary basis for many years. Companies choosing model 3 do not need to have a quality control management system in place as required by model 5. Instead, they are obliged to test collectors and storage tanks annually, and the certification process will be adapted to model 5. To clarify: The new INMETRO scheme does not change the character of the required tests, which will still be the same regardless of the model chosen. “Model 3 will not require a QMS audit, but the process will be the same,” says Thomas Spadinger, Technical Manager for Solar Thermal Product Certification at the MHS Institute in São Paulo. Companies will need a handling complaints system audit and will need to have their products sampled and sealed by certification body OCP (Organismo de Certificação de Produtos). They will also need to have products tested at an accredited lab and the certificate issued by the OCP. 
 
INMETRO has extended the validity period of certificates issued for model 5 from four to six years (see the table below). In addition, the retesting period has been extended from 12 to 24 months. This will certainly reduce costs, but retesting has still to be done more frequently than for other labels, such as Solar Keymark. “If one has a quality control for manufacturing, it doesn’t make any sense to test collectors again after 24 months. Inspecting a sample collector would be enough,” says Lucio Mesquita, Head of Thermosol Consulting in Canada and Brazilian specialist on solar thermal technology.
 
“Annual testing does not seem appropriate”
Dr Korbinian Kramer agrees: The Head of TestLab Solar Thermal Systems at German research institute Fraunhofer ISE explains that “in the Solar Keymark scheme rules, we had agreed to substitute the laboratory surveillance test planned for standard ISO/IEC 17067:2013-12 with a so-called physical inspection of the product in the factory together with QM inspection, and this regulation has worked to our satisfaction for the past ten years. Annual testing seems neither appropriate nor necessary from a technical point of view, as long as there are no changes in product design.” 
 
Harald Drück, Chairman of the Solar Keymark Network and the Global Solar Certification Network, appreciates INMETRO’s efforts, but emphasises the importance of aligning the rules of INMETRO with the ones of already well-established certification schemes, such as Solar Keymark, in order to pave the way for harmonised Global Solar Certification.
 

 

Country /
Region

Certificate
validity

Retesting of
certified
collectors

Frequency of
factory
surveillance
test *

Frequency
of QMS
audits

INMETRO
Model 3

Brazil

Four years

Every 12 months

-

-

INMETRO
Model 5

Brazil

Six years

Every 24 months

-

Every 24 months

Solar Keymark for manufacturer without ISO9001

Europe

Five years (extendable once)

After 10 years or if technical alterations or problems

Every 24 months

Every 12 months

Solar Keymark for manufacturer with ISO9001

Europe

Five years (extendable once)

After 10 years or if technical alterations or problems

Every 24 months

Every 24 months

Comparing certification rules in Brazil and Europe. This retest is not only required for collectors, but also for Solar Keymark certified hot water storage units and systems. 
*The surveillance test consists of a thorough physical inspection of an item from current production and its comparison with the specifications of the originally tested sample. 
Source: ABRAVA/Solar Keymark Network
 
Annual model 3 retesting was greeted with the same criticism. Many industry experts believe that a yearly inspection of samples would be enough in order to guarantee that the products offered by a company still comply with the data indicated on the technical specifications spreadsheet from the initial testing procedure.
 
More information:
Global Solar Certification: http://www.gsc-nw.org/
 
This news was written by Vanessa Kriele, a German freelance journalist specialised in renewable energies and world economics.
 
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