Policy - 27/May/2019

Europe explores sustainability standards for solar PV

Environmental footprints have already become part of the tender criteria for renewable energy support in some countries

Solar panels are green when in operation and industry is increasingly concerned about demonstrating their relatively small environmental footprint across their whole lifetime compared to conventional technologies. Experts in Europe are working to develop sustainability criteria to fulfil this need and potentially give European producers a competitive advantage

Bottom line: Renewable energy technologies must walk the talk on their environmental credentials

Action: The solar industry and the European Commission are aiming to create a life cycle-based sustainability standard for electricity production to ensure that the energy transition is genuinely green and clean

Win-win: Green standards may offer European companies a way of differentiating themselves from foreign competitors and ultimately help green the industry worldwide

Key quote: Solar panels generate 20 to 50 times more energy over their lifetime than the energy required to make them and their overall environmental footprint is “only a fraction” of that of conventional generation technologies

Just because a solar panel produces clean energy does not mean it is good for the environment. French journalist and author Guillaume Pitron describes the rare earth metals needed to make solar panels and other green technologies as the “next black gold”, highlighting their potentially negative consequences for the environment and the communities that mine them. SolarPower Europe, a European trade association, plays down the “many myths out there pointing to an alleged dark side of solar”. Keen to ensure its industry has as little impact on the environment as possible, it is working with the European Commission on life cycle sustainability standards that could take into account everything from how easy a solar panel is to recycle to what materials go into it to how much energy it produces. ...

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