Today, solar is the world’s fastest growing energy source. At the beginning of 2022, the world reached an impressive solar milestone: one terawatt of installed solar capacity globally. That’s enough to meet the electricity demands of nearly every country in Europe combined! At home, in Europe, solar is also thriving. Our continent is on track to install 39 GW this year, an all-time record.
As a response to energy security concerns and the energy price crisis exacerbated by the Russian War in Ukraine, the European Commission has increased its solar ambitions to 750 GW by 2030 in its recent REPowerEU package. The package includes a proposal for an EU Solar Rooftop Mandate which will help to cover 25% of Europe’s electricity demand. However, reaching these increased solar targets will also require mobilising land in the coming years at an accelerated pace. The question arises: how can we ensure our growth is sustainable?
Sustainable Solar Europe is our new flagship event, co-organised with Intersolar. The conference took place in Brussels on 27 October. This new annual event provides the solar community with an opportunity to discuss the most critical topics on solar sustainability, and learn best practices.
Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO at SolarPower Europe, opened the event by highlighting the key role solar is playing in leading Europe out of the multiple crises we face, while ensuring that sustainable growth of the sector.
"We do think we can reach 1 TW of solar in Europe by 2030 - the question is how are we going to make sure that this growth is going hand in hand with sustainability, and that solar is positively contributing to the crises we face."
Stefano Grassi, Head of Cabinet for EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, echoed this message stating:
“We are going to solve this crisis and offer the European Union a chance to be competitive. The only way for Europe to become a greener continent and remain prosperous is by boosting renewables [and] the leader is solar.”
Throughout the day there were insightful discussions on supply chain transparency, during which our Senior Trade Advisor Alexia Ruvoletto presented our new Solar Stewardship Initiative commenting; "We can't be truly sustainable without transparency at each step of our supply chain. Consumers want to be sure that the solar panels they are installing are sustainable. Our answer to this question is the Solar Stewardship Initiative".
Other sessions covered product sustainability looking at EcoDesign and Energy Labelling, and project sustainability - specifically nature and biodiversity considerations when developing new solar projects.
“Solar PV projects can achieve biodiversity net gains if well-sited, designed and managed. They can protect and enhance local biodiversity, restore degraded ecosystems and create new habitats. All whilst producing green energy.”
Project Coordinator for Sustainability, SolarPower Europe
The event came to an end with a fitting final discussion on end-of-life sustainability and the practices we should implement moving forward to improve recycling and reduce waste.
We were delighted to announce the winner of our Solar Flora and Fauna Photo Competition after receiving 500 votes for a selection of beautiful photos from our members. Congratulations to Lightsource bp who came in first place with over 200 votes for their photo of a friendly hare crossing their Wilburton solar site. View the gallery of great photos here, showcasing solar and nature thriving together.