7 February 2024

Big Buyers Working together kicks off its Sustainable Solar CoP

On 16 January the Big Buyers Working Together (BBWT) started its work with the Community of Practice (CoP) focusing on sustainable solar panels. The group consisting of RESAH (a public Central Purchasing Body that leverages the purchasing power of hospitals and nursing homes in France), the City of Cologne (Germany), the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, Regional Energy Agency North (Croatia), Vattenfall (owned by Swedish government), the City of Amsterdam (Netherlands), Bpost (Belgium), Berlin District (Germany) and the Dutch Government Agency for Real Estate, will use the work of the former Dutch Solar Group as the foundation of its activities.

During the meeting representatives of The Dutch Solar Group explained that its aim was to get a better understanding of how solar panels can help mitigate climate change. They did market studies to analyse different technologies, looked at the lifespan of panels, calculated the carbon payback time and tried to see whether they could make supply chains more transparent to combat forced labour. The BBWT CoP on Sustainable Solar panels will discuss among other things how the materials with good practices developed by the Dutch group can be applied in different national contexts. Furthermore, this newly formed community aims to develop and test methods to procure more sustainable solar panels, provide information about business-cases for procuring them, amd get more insights into market engagement, both at a European and a local level.

The kick-off meeting made clear that the work of this group fits very well within European policies. The EU Solar Energy Strategy aims to scale up the manufacturing of innovative and sustainable solar PV products, creating the right conditions for investment, de-risking and accelerating industrial projects, and diversifying international supplies, including raw material. In doing so, it seeks to bring about 30GW of annual manufacturing capacity by 2025, deliver €60 of new GDP per year in Europe, and create more than 400,000 new jobs in Europe.

Even though there is optimism about the energy capabilities of solar panels (it is expected that in the future new products with an even lower footprint will be developed), participants also highlighted some key challenges. For example, it is still unclear what plans there are to address the non-sustainable and ethical issues surrounding solar panels. For example, due to a lack of standards and certification, it can be hard to assess human rights issues in supply chains.

More information on this Community of Practice can be found on the European Commission’s Public Buyers Community, a digital platform for public procurers. Participants interested in joining the CoP are encouraged to report their interest in the work of the Community and to use the opportunity to shape the work of the CoP. If you work for a Public Authority, and you think that you could provide added value to the CoP and benefit from it, then you are welcome to express your interest by sending an email to Big Buyers Working Together Secretariat, at The CoP on Sustainable Solar is one of the four CoP’s coordinated by ICLEI Europe. Eurocities also coordinates four, while BME coordinates two.