Via the UP initiative, pv magazine is diving deep into the topic of what it means to be truly sustainable, looking at what is already being done, and discussing areas for improvement. Scroll down to view our quarterly themes, and check out the sustainability cornerstone at our Roundtable events. Are you UP for it?
Why step UP?
pv magazine launched the UP initiative in May 2019 to effect truly sustainable action in both the solar and storage industries. This will be achieved by positively exploring how we can, on an individual and collective level, make rational, manageable, and quantifiable changes in the most transparent manner. At the same time, care will be taken to avoid making unrealistic demands, or add fuel to the anti- solar and -storage fires.
We will use our various platforms – print and digital articles, Webinars and Roundtables, for example – to identify and discuss sustainability issues; to call out greenwashing, and to encourage a step-change by creating quantifiable, third-party verifiable criteria companies can comply with to prove their sustainability credentials; and to effect concrete action in the form of activism/advocacy.
Each quarter, pv magazine will shine a spotlight on a pertinent sustainability topic.
Q1 2024: Regulating sustainability
Solar companies are keen to take action on sustainability, whether that means reducing energy consumption in manufacturing, adding wildlife-protection measures to a project plan, or taking responsibility for recycling once a project reaches the end of operations. But many are hesitating without clear guidance and measurable standards for what actually constitutes sustainable practice.
Q4 2023: Zero-carbon solar
We will explore zero-carbon solar, from ingot to module manufacture, plus cradle-to-grave product analysis. We will discover more about a holistic view of green energy generation that includes recycling, water usage, logistics, and more.
Q3 2023: PV and biodiversity
pv magazine will delve further into solar power and nature, examining the intersection of regulation and policy, and seek expert perspectives to discover how solar energy and, increasingly, co-sited energy storage can be mixed-use patches of open green space that are safeguards for nature.
Q2 2023: ESG reporting
Environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) reporting is becoming more commonplace for solar and energy storage companies and that can mean conflict with wider economic and political dynamics. In this quarter, pv magazine will examine the state of play in ESG reporting among solar and storage businesses.
Q1 2023: Materials and supply chain monitoring
With global companies, their customers, and investors becoming ever more sensitive to environmental, sustainability, and corporate governance issues, the question of where the raw materials and components that become solar panels and batteries come from is an important one. As recent US policies have illustrated, failing to take due care of supply chains can leave companies unable to get their products out of customs and border official lock-ups. We focus on how companies can ensure their components are free of ethical, labor, and environmental concerns, from the moment they are dug up until they are generating or storing clean energy.
Q4 2022: Material sustainability
Material sustainability is fast rising up the solar and energy storage agendas. Increasing amounts of renewables, the electrification of sectors like transport, and a critical supply chain situation are just some of the reasons why. In Q4 2022, the UP Initiative is delving into the world of resources to find out what is being done to address these challenges. Of particular interest are steel, aluminum, glass, and precious metals like silver, copper, and cobalt.
Q3 2022: Green finance
In 2020, the UP Initiative focused on green finance. At the time, Covid-19 was just beginning to hit the headlines with fears of unknown consequences on the political, social, and industrial level abounding. Two and a half years later, resiliency has been proven in many areas, not least in the renewables industry. While the pandemic continues to affect us, the world is facing a new crisis: The Ukrainian-Russian conflict. And let us not forget the climate crisis is also deepening. How can we address these global threats? Arguably, the renewable energy industry is one of the most effective keys – not only in terms of shoring up domestic energy independence and achieving net-zero goals, but also in terms of redirecting investment towards a more positive future. Thus, this quarter, pv magazine will focus on sustainable finance and look at what needs to be done to achieve positive progress.
Q2 2022: EU manufacturing
European solar manufacturing is back on the agenda after over a decade of minimal activity. Ambitious proposals are in place to reactivate a booming industry with investment earmarked, factories planned, sustainability goals announced, and political strategies outlined to support the projected growth of PV installations. Can these plans be realized? The UP Initiative will spend the second quarter delving into these questions.
Q1 2022: E-Mobility
Urban transportation is key to modern civilization. It has enabled humans to travel long distances and is one of the building blocks of industry and leisure. But it has come at a cost, contributing to a dangerous carbon footprint, high levels of smog, a growing inequality gap, and the destruction of some of our most fragile environments. There are already many working projects demonstrating the potential to green the world’s transportation sectors. However, there are hurdles to overcome and we must remain alert to the pitfalls that will come with this progress. Thus, in the first quarter of 2022, pv magazine’s UP Initiative will focus on the rise of e-mobility and how it can complement the renewable energy transition. Specifically, we will examine the role electric vehicles, trains, and two- and three-wheelers can play in greening the electricity grid.
Q4 2021: Urban solar
We spend much of our time inside. Buildings are key to our daily lives and significantly impact our health and wellbeing. The majority also have substantial carbon footprints, employing heavy use of fossil fuels across their lifetimes, from their construction, use, and demolition phases. In addition to the predicted billions of square meters that will be added in the next decade, most of those buildings standing today will still be around in 2050. Thus, retrofitting existing structures is considered a key sustainability target. In Q4 2021, pv magazine’s UP Initiative focused on the role solar and energy storage can play in greening the world’s urban spaces.
Q3 2021: Sustainable electricity and corporates’ critical solar role
Despite the global pandemic and recession, corporate purchases of clean energy are booming. Several factors are driving this trend, including falling costs, heightened appetite for sustainability among consumers and investors, and increased political will for net-zero development. In recognition of this, the UP Initiative spent the third quarter investigating sustainable electricity supply. How are PPA models evolving? What are the critical issues around residual energy? And how can greenwashing be avoided? pv magazine investigated.
- What can corporates do to sustain the energy transition?
- How do they approach renewable energy purchases?
- How is the business model landscape evolving, particularly when storage is combined?
- How can the solar industry and corporates work together to best serve each other’s needs?
- How is the issue of residual energy dealt with?
- What is really needed to create a sustainable renewable energy system?
Q2 2021: Workers' rights
pv magazine’s UP Initiative will spend Q2 2021 looking at what solar and energy storage companies can do to lead by positive example when it comes to the workers, often far removed, involved in the production of their products and services. Topics included:
- Impacts on global polysilicon supply for solar manufacturers
- Supply chain audits and transparency in PV
- Relevant policy directives in the United States and Europe
Q1 2021: Agri-PV
Solar PV could disrupt the fossil fuel industry and help with two of the biggest sustainability challenges of our times: biodiversity loss and food production. In Q1 2021, pv magazine’s UP initiative will shine a spotlight on agrivoltaics – the combination of agriculture and solar energy – in recognition of this emerging market. The goal was to understand the potential benefits, and economic, political and technical challenges of such an innovative partnership.
Q4 2020: PV module recycling
In the fourth quarter, pv magazine’s UP initiative turned its attention to the topic of PV module recycling. With huge projected volumes of waste edging ever nearer, the topic is gathering speed on a global level. But how can the tension between economic viability and equipment lifetimes of up to 30 years and beyond be addressed? And what is happening in the field of recycling technology? Will it ever be possible to extract the most valuable materials from today’s PV modules?
Q3 2020: Circular manufacturing
The next quarterly theme focused on circular manufacturing. We investigated if adopting circular approaches can create competitive edges and reap financial and reputational rewards. We also looked at what is already being done in the solar industry, and examine how such principles could be effectively integrated into business strategies.
Q2 2020: Green finance
In Q2 2020, we turned our attention to the pertinent topic of green finance. The goal, among others, was to understand what the term “green finance” means; to understand how one can avoid greenwashing; and to investigate where future investment opportunities lie.
Q1 2020: Raw material sourcing in batteries
In Q1 2020, we pushed our UP initiative towards sustainability concerns in storage. While batteries are indispensable for e-mobility and also for the energy transition, the technology’s thirst for raw materials has been an often-raised point of concern. Chile, as the world’s largest supplier of lithium, faces water scarcity as a result of mining activities. The Democratic Republic of Congo has not managed to eliminate child labor from its cobalt mines. And these are not the only concerns relating to mineral extraction for energy storage. pv magazine looked out the pressing sustainability issues impacting the storage industry and investigated solutions that manufacturers and consumers can deploy today.
Q4 2019: Lead-free PV?
Our first quarterly theme, which ran from October to December 2019, focused on lead in solar. Should lead still be used in solar? Are there realistic alternatives?The global deployment of so much PV is an impressive feat and one that is critical for the renewable energy transition. However, it is essential to consider both future waste volumes, and the materials employed. Can all modules be safely retrieved in all geographies (many of which do not yet have mandatory waste disposal regulations for solar) and, in the best-case scenario, continually reused? Even if the small amounts of such hazardous elements as lead are “harmless” when considered on an individual level, is this still the case when much larger quantities come into play? Are there non-toxic alternatives? These are the questions pv magazine sought to answer throughout Q4.
pv magazine Sustainability Roundtable 2022
A panel of experts – Adele Zhao, Head of Product Solutions & Marketing, Europe, Trina Solar; Inés Monroy, Global Business Development & Brand Manager, Steag Solar Energy Solutions; Maria Franco, Associate Professor, Circular Economy, Bern University of Applied Sciences; and Alison Lennon, Chief Scientist, Sundrive Solar, Adjunct Professor, UNSW – joined pv magazine for a discussion on how solar companies can meet ESG criteria and prepare for increasingly rigorous standards, and circularity in manufacturing and pathways to overcome material bottlenecks.
pv magazine Sustainability Roundtable 2021
The third Cornerstone of pv magazine’s Roundtables 2021 Europe event focused on Sustainability & Made in Europe PV. Sustainability issues are a natural part of the discussion of solar production on the continent. Advocates note that shipping emissions and recycling infrastructure and processes are available in Europe, but that may not be the case in the production centers of Asia. As such, we addressed projects that support the circular economy in solar, along with what it means to have truly sustainable PV production.