Sustainability has become increasingly important for the envisaged single market for green products in the European Union and globally. Today, electricity is being benchmarked and labelled with a multitude of multi- and one-dimensional criteria (e.g. Carbon Footprint, Green Sourcing etc.). Moreover, environmental footprint has become part of the tender criteria for renewable energy in some countries and will most likely become more relevant in the electricity markets of the future.
In the framework of the Ecodesign Working Plan 2016-2019, the European Commission is currently exploring the possibility of applying policy instruments such as Ecodesign, Energy Labelling and Ecolabel to solar modules, inverters and systems. The Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives are the two pillars of the European policy for energy-efficient products. Products covered by the Ecodesign Directive can only be put on the European market if they fulfil minimum requirements related to energy efficiency and circular economy. The EU Ecolabel is a voluntary label promoting environmental excellence by identifying products and services with reduced environmental impact.
Join SolarPower Europe’s Sustainability Task Force
The Sustainability Task Force accompanies and participates in various sustainability-related initiatives. The current focus of the Task Force is delivering the solar industry’s input to the Preparatory study evaluating the possibility of applying Ecodesign, Energy Labelling or Ecolabel to solar modules, inverters and systems. The Preparatory study, launched in October 2017 and carried out by the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, is a two-year project with an intensive stakeholder consultation process. SolarPower Europe’s Sustainability Task Force plays a key role in this consultation. After the publication of the Preparatory study in 2019, the Task Force will carry on participating in any ensuing regulatory process, representing the solar industry, which could last up to two years.
The Sustainability Task Force is also currently working on a set of Sustainability Factsheets covering a number of sustainability-related issues around solar power, such as environmental impact, recycling and materials criticality, with the objective of conclusively debunking myths around solar.
Moreover, further EU regulatory changes around hazardous materials and recycling are expected in the near future, something the Task Force will be closely following.
If you are interested in joining this task force, contact Raffaele Rossi.
Solar is one of the most sustainable sources of electricity – or is it? There are many myths out there pointing to an alleged “dark side” of solar, such as “materials used for solar panels are bad for the environment” and “manufacturing solar panels requires more energy than what is recovered during the entire lifetime of the solar panel”. The truth is that the environmental footprint of a unit of solar power generated is only a fraction of conventional, technologies – therefore solar offers the most cost-efficient means to decouple electricity generation from environmental and health impacts.
Solar panels generate between 20 and 50 times more power during their lifetime than what is required to manufacture them. This means that a solar panel “pays back” the power needed for its manufacturing in less than a year on average – a figure that, together with the environmental footprint of solar, is constantly improving as solar is becoming more mature.
SolarPower Europe’s Sustainability Task Force is currently working on a series of Solar Sustainability Factsheets to debunk such myths. The factsheets will cover a variety of topics from carbon footprint of modules and batteries to recycling, from panels’ cost and efficiency to materials’ criticality.
“Regulators, businesses, private consumers and customers in many regions of the world have shown an increased interest in sustainability and environmental performance of solar. Developing life cycle assessments and standardised approaches in environmental footprinting helps to demonstrate the advantages of solar in comparison to fossil energy and helps to portray the ongoing innovations in eco-design and sustainability of solar”
First Solar, Task Force leader