Sustainability is among the most important drivers for solar energy deployment. Governments, businesses, and individuals across the globe have found PV as an answer to their climate concerns and to the need to align our energy system to the Earth’s environmental boundaries. Solar is set to play a leading role in the achievement of the 2030 EU renewable targets and the commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050.
Thanks to rapid and continuous technological improvements, solar has become one of the energy technologies with the smallest carbon footprint and will continue this downward emissions track. Moreover, solar already shows clear environmental benefits across a large range of sustainability areas, including material and water consumption, human health, biodiversity preservation, and public acceptance. The industry aims to further improve its performance on all these different areas, positioning solar as the clear leader on sustainability across the energy world.
Solar PV energy is 96% less carbon intensive than coal and 93% less than gas energy sources.
Solar PV recycling, which is already mandatory in the EU, caters to up to 90% of the weight of the component’s materials.
Throughout its lifetime, a solar installation will generate 30 times the electricity needed to manufacture it.
Nine out of ten people across the EU indicate solar as their preferred energy source to affordably address climate change and help the EU decarbonise.
The Sustainability workstream
The Sustainability workstream
The goal of the Sustainability workstream is to steer the political discourse related to PV sustainability at European level and shape policy frameworks on this area, while highlighting solar’s top sustainability performance to policymakers and the general public. Through the development of lifecycle assessments and standardised approaches in different sustainability areas, the workstream demonstrates the advantages of solar in comparison to competing energy sources. Promoting best practices and showcasing leading industry examples, the workstream raises the bar across the industry to further improve solar’s footprint. The Sustainability workstream is particularly active on the ongoing Ecodesign and Energy Label policy proposals on PV products, with the goal of ensuring that strong and future-proof measures are implemented for the EU solar sector.
The Supply Chain Transparency workstream:
In order to provide the industry with a strong tool to make sure that no solar PV modules made with forced labour can enter the European value chain, SolarPower Europe has created a Supply Chain Transparency working group and is developing a Supply Chain Monitoring Programme. The project aims to enhance end-to-end transparency and sustainability across the solar supply chain, with the primary objective of monitoring social and environmental impacts along the supply chain. The project is supported by 30 buyers and suppliers of solar PV equipment, representing a major market share.SolarPower Europe Statement on Human Rights
"On the environmental front, the future of sustainability will mean strong energy yields, supported by PV technologies that are more durable, less prone to degradation, highly recyclable, and which carry minimal CO2 footprints. "
Interview with Matthew Merfert, chair of the Sustainability Workstream
Environmental and social sustainability are at the forefront of current discussions in the solar PV value chain. In the European Union and beyond, this is reflected in a number of ongoing policy proposals set to define sustainability requirements for PV technologies. For example, the European Commission is currently developing Ecodesign and Energy Labelling rules for PV modules, inverters and systems on the EU market.Read the interview