SolarPower Summit Recap: Day 1

What a start to the SolarPower Summit! Today we officially launched the 2021 edition, dedicating the Summit to the topic of sustainability. 

The opening session, “Driving Change Together,” focused on cooperation and driving change as a collective endeavour that requires the mobilisation of all sectors. The session aimed to shed light on the synergies between key European stakeholders, to make the European Green Deal a true success story. With a large panel, the speakers ranged from specialists in renewable hydrogen, the chemical industry, job and skills training, and electrification – but all speakers shared similar ambitions: that we need increased renewable deployment; that we need more investment in grids; that new grid capacity needs to be built, but also that the existing grid needs to be renewed, as Diederik Peereboom, Secretary General of T&D Europe focused on. Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Secretary General at Hydrogen Europe also made a strong call to policymakers to revise the current RED II definition of additionality, which places the burden of proof on the producer, asking for this principle of additionality to only come into place in 2025. 

The job potential of renewables was also reinforced by Julie Beaufils, Secretary General at EuropeOn, and we were reminded that energy efficiency should not be an after-thought but integrated into all operations, by Arianna Vitali Roscini, Secretary General of the Coalition for Energy Savings. Overall, the session highlighted both the critical challenges and potential solutions for achieving the ambitions of the European Green Deal. 

After a wellness stretch break, the second session jumped straight into a discussion of “Solar4Ambitions”, 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. Cassia Moraes started the conversation speaking about Youth Climate Leaders, which focus on solutions to help young people tackle the challenges of climate crisis and structural unemployment, with the aim of empowering one million young people to lead climate projects. She emphasised that: “The climate crisis is the best opportunity to include all young people in the climate economy; to go beyond giving a voice, and to invest in the professional generation and the education of young people now and in the future”. In response, Timmermans said his “heart had been warmed” by the actions of young people, and that without the youth movement politicians would not be discussing climate the way they are now.

Leonore Gewessler, the Austrian Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology, emphasized how important this political pressure is to continue momentum behind policy work. She highlighted the one million rooftops program in Austria, and how important energy communities are to build on these positive developments. Timmermans closed the session by addressing the important public administrative work to do in making skills available, and training for the energy transition, emphasising that “We have no time to waste. We’re in this together and we can only succeed if we all do our part 100%”.

Last but certainty not least, the finale of the day saw the first-ever Solar Gender Champion Award, with three inspiring presentations by the finalists. First, Carol Weiss, Co-Founder of Remote Energy, a non-profit that provides training programs for women in the solar sector, spoke about the importance of teaching women in a women-only space. For twenty years she has been creating such spaces where women could feel confident and encouraged to train in a male-dominated sector. Weiss mentioned the importance of having female role models, making solar accessible to young girls, and the benefits women have from learning from each other and mentoring one another. 

Second, Joanna Thorpe, Head of Talent Acquisition and Development, Sonnedix, presented on how Sonnedix is making gender diversity “business as usual”. To achieve this they have, among other things, developed an internship and mentorship program, company-wide training on allyship and generous parental leave. She further impressed the judges by discussing all the efforts that the company had put in place to support women during the COVID-19 pandemic, with ongoing mental health support, social engagement, and extensive employee support. 

Third, Signe Antvorskov Krag, Head of Development, IKEA Clean Energy Services, discussed how the company has 60% women on their clean energy services team, and a 50/50 gender balance throughout the entire IKEA community. She spoke about how as a child she was encouraged to aspire to her dreams in a traditionally male environment by the people around her who supported her, and that this motivates her to create supportive environments in IKEA. 

After an enticing wait for the audience to vote, it was announced that Sonnedix had won, with Joanna Thorpe thanking the voters and adding: “How wonderful to be in this session and to hear these three finalist success stories. But let us all make sure it’s not just three stories, but that we go out and make it 30 stories, 300 stories, 3000 stories!” 

Tune in tomorrow, to enjoy sessions on Solar4Manufacturing, Solar4Business, Solar4Hydrogen, as well as the launch of our Agrisolar Best Practice Guidelines and the ceremony of our Solar Startup Awards.

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