Looking back on this year’s SolarPower Summit: Driving Sustainable Change Together

By Charlotte Otten, Head of Events

Our second digital SolarPower Summit was 100% dedicated to the topic of sustainability, but also emphasised the need to collaborate, work together, and drive change collectively. Sessions covered everything from the European solar industry, renewable hydrogen, emerging markets, manufacturing, and innovative business models. There were many highlights of the event, but we were especially proud of the launch of two flagship reports on Agrisolar and Sustainability, and the first editions of our Solar Sustainability and Gender Awards, as well as the fourth annual Solar Startup Award. Looking at the data from the event, we can report that it was one of our most successful Summits ever in terms of participation and attendees! For those who missed a session, or would like to rewatch the content, recordings of the sessions are available on our YouTube channel.

We warmed up with a successful side event, supported by GET.invest, focusing on solar business opportunities in emerging markets. This included government and industry representatives from Europe and Africa, including notable speakers such as Stefano Signore, Head of Climate Change and Sustainable Energy, at the European Commission, and Atef Marzouk, Acting Director Infrastructure and Energy, at the Africa Union Commission. These deep dive sessions focused on solar in the support of healthcare, food, and water supply in Africa; as well as green hydrogen’s role in enhancing the renewable-based electrification trend in Africa.

The Summit launched with an opening session on “Driving Change Together,” focusing on change as a collective endeavour that requires the mobilisation of all sectors. A highlight was the “Solar4Ambitions” session, with high-level speakers including Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President of the European Commission engaging directly with Cassia Moraes, Founder and CEO, Youth Climate Leaders, and Leonore Gewessler, Austria’s Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology. This kind of engagement – between high-level policymakers and a young climate leader – is what makes the SolarPower Summit an inclusive and essential event on the topic of the green transition.

Day 2 saw the launch of Agrisolar Best Practices Guidelines. In this session, Eva Vandest, Head of Public Affairs, Amarenco Group, and chair of the Agrisolar Workstream at SolarPower Europe, introduced the idea of the Sustainable Agriculture Concept (SAC), a concept with three levels of criteria to establish the best possible synergy between agricultural and solar. We encourage you to download the full report here. Day 2 also featured an Executive Interview with Kostas Skrekas, Greece’s Minister of Environment & Energy.

Day 3 was the launch of our Solar Sustainability Best Practices Benchmark, produced collaboratively by many solar industry experts active in SolarPower Europe’s Sustainability Workstream. With solar on the verge of reaching the Terawatt era, the benchmark aims to further improve solar sustainability performance in relation to environmental, social, and corporate governance features. Andreas Wade, Global Sustainability Director at First Solar, and chair of the Workstream, presented the benchmark’s broad look at sustainability, covering carbon footprint, circularity, supply chain transparency, biodiversity, human rights, and more. Day 3 included an Executive Interview with Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA.

An audience favourite was the interactive digital networking session on the Remo platform, sparking stimulating debate about the Summit content, and receiving very positive feedback from participants. With more than 2,100 registered attendees, this Summit was a roaring success, and social media engagement was also significant, with our top post on LinkedIn receiving 106,379 organic impressions! The audience also stayed connected by posting #ShareYourView photos, showcasing the unique area of the world they were joining us from. It was exciting to see people from Australia, to Malawi, to Spain connect to the Summit. We will be posting a collage of all views in the coming days, so stay tuned for that! Daily quizzes also kept audience members on their toes, testing the content from the day’s sessions. The winners will be announced later this week, and we will be holding more SolarPower Europe quizzes in the future. 

Last but certainly not least, three awards were given to companies that excelled in the categories of solar innovation, gender equality, and sustainability. The fourth annual Solar Startup Award was awarded to SmartHelio, with CEO Govinda Upadhyay, impressing the audience with the company’s real-time and automated solutions to make solar plants greener and to increase performance. In turn, Sonnedix won the first Solar Gender Champion Award, with Joanna Thorpe, Head of Talent Acquisition and Development, presenting an impressive portfolio of work on diversity, including internship and mentorship programs, company-wide training on allyship, and generous parental leave. Finally, the first Solar Sustainability Award went to Akuo, as President Eric Scotto excelled in presenting the Agrinergie solution, which is particularly well-suited to functioning in isolated areas, cyclone-prone regions, or non-grid-connected parts of the world. All the finalists of the awards impressed the jury, and we will be profiling the winners in the next few weeks.

Thank you to all participants who joined us to make this second digital SolarPower Summit such a great experience and we look forward to welcoming you back again next year in 2022. 

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