Sustainability is the word on everyone’s lips, and it means more than simply reducing emissions. To be sustainable requires taking into account the environmental, economic, and social dimension of the entire value chain. Solar is the most sustainable energy source not just because of its low carbon footprint, but also because it leads to increased energy self-sufficiency, and is highly job-intensive, creating more jobs per installed watt than any other power generation source. Innovative solar applications, such as floating solar and agrisolar, also show how solar can enhance biodiversity.
The solar industry aims to strengthen its leadership on the sustainability front, and the ambitious European Green Deal provides the perfect framework to cement sustainability as a guiding principle. Right now, the EU solar industry is gearing up to align with upcoming EU sustainable product policies such as Ecodesign and Energy Label on PV products, which will further raise the bar for solar’s sustainability ambitions.
We take this occasion to shine a spotlight on companies leading the charge with sustainability efforts. Our first sustainability champion, Pia Alina Lange, works for RECHARGE, the European industry association for advanced rechargeable and lithium battery manufacturers and the entire related value chain. We discuss the recently published proposal for a Batteries Regulation, decarbonisaton, and how end-users can get involved in the energy transition.
1. What does sustainability mean to you?
Having worked in green energy and sustainability for more than a decade, I believe that sustainability really needs to be a holistic concept that creates both environmental and socio-economic benefits. Eventually, one does not work without the other in the long term.
2. What does your company do to support sustainability in solar?
Bringing together all sectors of the battery value chain, RECHARGE has as mission to ensure innovative, competitive, safe as well as environmentally and socially responsible batteries. By contributing to legislative and normative frameworks in Europe and at UN level, battery storage/power has really evolved to a cornerstone technology of a de-centralized, renewable energy infrastructure. The numbers of new PV installations with battery energy storage systems demonstrate that batteries and solar truly are a natural fit.
3. Which sustainability areas do you focus on, and why?
For our Association and, thus, members, social responsibility is key! We have proactively been calling for mandatory requirements fostering human, social and labor rights along the entire battery value chain for many years and are, hence, very pleased that the recently published proposal for a Batteries Regulation foresees a due diligence measure. We regret that it is limited to the raw materials sector, however.
The second sustainability focus is the decarbonization of our own and related sectors, such as electricity generation and mobility. Already in 2013, RECHARGE contributed to European Commission efforts to develop rules and a robust methodology to establish the environmental footprint of – among others – batteries. For us, the goal is to accelerate the transition to sustainable, low-carbon products. As our world increasingly electrifies and batteries have become a strategic technology, improving the environmental performance of our sector can only be a top priority.
4. How does sustainability impact your day-to-day job?
Quite frankly, I don’t see any area of our work as an industry association that is not driven by enhancing sustainability: pushing for social sustainability and societal prosperity, improving the environmental profile of our product. Even when we work on topics such as industrial leadership, European competitiveness or research into next-generation batteries, sustainability is a key driver.
5. How can Europeans get involved to make their lives and the continent more sustainable?
Both end-users and industrial customers have a pivotal role to play in the transition to a more sustainable society and economy. Our objective is a) to ensure that under-performing batteries will no longer enter the European market – for example batteries with a high carbon footprint – and b) to actively communicate on those high-relevance sustainability indicators that effectively differentiate a battery. Again, the carbon footprint is such an indicator because it provides relevant environmental information but also tells more than any technical criterion about the quality and durability of a battery.