SolarPower Summit Recap: Day 3

The final day of the 2021 SolarPower Summit was full of sessions covering everything from Emerging Markets, to interactive networking, and to the flagship publication of the first Solar Sustainability Best Practices Benchmark.

The day began with a session supported by GET.invest – a European programme supported by the European Union, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Austria. Under the title ‘Solar4GlobalChange’, the session invited high-level representatives of the European Commission, Sweden, and Germany, as well as industry representatives, to discuss initiatives aimed at fostering renewable energy development in emerging markets. Starting with a keynote speech from Koen Doens, Director-General for International Partnerships, European Commission, on the potential for solar in emerging markets. Despite Africa having the richest solar resources in the world, it has only installed 5 GW of solar PV, less than 1% of global installed capacity. Doens noted that this is a “huge opportunity to tap into. Europe and Africa together can lead a smart, green transformation, which can create a cleaner future”.

Dr. Karsten Schlageter, Director, ABO Wind Germany, spoke about the importance of bankability, while José Donoso, Chairman of Global Solar Council and Director General of UNEF, reiterated the need to build trust in certain emerging markets to encourage private investment. Dr. Jürgen Zattler, Director General, Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (Germany) spoke about mobilising private finance and addressing key bottlenecks, which are mostly policy and regulatory frameworks. Gunilla Nilsson, Head of Energy & Climate, Swedfund, presented the work that Sweden and other member states are engaging in, reminding everyone that “Solar has really reached grid parity and it’s the cheapest way to build up more energy in most countries”. The session concluded with a note about the macro-economic context of the pandemic and the need especially now to provide financial support internationally, and without borders. 

Next up was an executive interview with Francesco La Camera, Director-General at IRENA. He noted that “politically, renewables are the only solution, and if we want to increase this share, we need more flexibility and interconnectivity in the grid”. He also discussed the importance of AI and digitalisation to speed up the energy transition.

This was followed by a dynamic networking session, allowing participants to engage with each other in an interactive manner. On the Remo platform, participants could join roundtables depending on their own topics of interest, with no invitation needed, and could start their own roundtable debates, inviting attendees to join, either in a group or one-on-one. There were many highly energetic conversations happening, with attendees happy to talk about the topics of the Summit.

After a wellness dance break to shake things up, the Solar4Sustainability session took centre stage. This session saw the launch of the 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, began by summarising the structure of the Benchmark, which takes a broad look at sustainability, covering carbon footprint, circularity, supply chain transparency, biodiversity, human rights, and more. During the panel discussion, Susannah Wood, VP Public Affairs, European Wind and Solar at Statkraft, highlighted how more focus on the full lifecycle of the project and using LCOE for procurement decisions is a good start to making long-term sustainable choices. She also noted one of the most important things for local community engagement is fostering biodiversity, creating opportunities for plants and wildlife, as this brings local communities emotionally closer to large-scale solar projects. 

The concluding session of the summit was the exciting finale of the very first Solar Sustainability Award with three stellar presentations. The finalists included: Eric Scotto President of Akuo Energy; David Schönmayr, Program Lead, Sustainability by Design, at Fronius; and José Miguel Ferrer, Country Manager Spain for Statkraft. After an audience vote, the winner was Akuo, for their innovative Agrisolar solutions! 

We hope you have learned as much as we have over the last three days, and enjoyed the wide range of content. We hope the sun is shining wherever you are, and look forward to welcoming you to our SolarPower Summit next year.

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