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Community of Public Buyers for Sustainable Solar PV

Improving quality, sustainability and financial returns on photovoltaic (PV) projects.

News article22 March 2024

Harnessing the power of community: the future of sustainable solar energy

Rows of solar panels in a green field.

The energy crisis brought home the need for an accelerated shift towards renewable energy to enhance the EU’s energy independence. The solar sector emerged as the frontrunner in 2023, eclipsing all other technologies combined in terms of new power generation capacity within the EU. Demonstrating remarkable resilience and growth, solar energy achieved annual growth rates of at least 40% over the last three years. 

In this ever-evolving landscape of renewable energy, the Community of Public Buyers for Sustainable Solar PV stands at the forefront of innovation and collaboration. Hosted on the Public Buyers Community Platform, this alliance brings together public organisations across the European Union, united by a common goal: to accelerate the adoption of sustainable solar photovoltaic (PV) technology.

The group’s inception in the Netherlands as a national green public procurement initiative laid the groundwork for its evolution into an EU-wide community, demonstrating the power of localised efforts to inspire broader, continent-wide change in sustainable solar public procurement practices.

The initiative emerged against a backdrop of critical challenges within the solar PV industry. Mainstream solar PV modules, primarily sourced from regions where labour and environmental standards may be lower, have raised concerns regarding durability, carbon footprint, and the use of toxic materials. The technical lifespan of solar panels is also an issue. Longer-lasting panels mean less waste and a more efficient use of resources, contributing to a cycle of sustainability that benefits both the economy and the environment. 

Moreover, ensuring fair and safe working conditions along the supply chain is essential for the ethical production of solar panels, aligning with the EU’s broader commitments to human rights and social justice. The lack of transparency within the solar industry exacerbates the challenge, creating a substantial gap in information for buyers. This gap significantly impedes the ability to make well-informed choices, particularly in navigating towards more sustainable solar energy options.

Recognising these challenges, the Community of Public Buyers for Sustainable Solar PV aims to leverage the collective purchasing power and influence of public buyers, who constitute almost a thirdof the market. By fostering awareness and providing actionable insights, the community seeks to pivot public procurement towards solar PV solutions that boast lower carbon footprints, longer lifespans, and ethically sound labour conditions.

Michiel Mensink, co-leader of the Community alongside Bart Jeroen (B.J.) Bierens, highlighted that, ‘Awareness around the sustainability issues of solar panels is in its early stages, with varying degrees of recognition across different countries. There’s a long journey ahead in educating about the potential for truly sustainable solar solutions. We want to improve the dissemination of this information and knowledge. Possibly, in the future, with group purchasing projects, we could amplify demand for sustainable PV modules, fostering a more robust and environmentally conscious market’.

Central to the community’s strategy is the empowerment of public buyers through the provision of contract and tender templates that incorporate environmental criteria, education, sharing of best practices, and the development of tools and resources. Initiatives also include webinars and market surveys. These efforts are designed not only to bridge the information gap but also to inspire action by illustrating the tangible benefits of sustainable solar PV – from reduced carbon emissions to the avoidance of toxic materials.

Leveraging the Public Buyers Community Platform, a digital space tailored to the unique needs of public procurement, significantly boosts members’ capacity for collaboration and provides seamless access to essential information, tools, and best practices. It also elevates the profile of sustainable initiatives by fostering connections between members and a wider network of stakeholders and experts. This integration cultivates a dynamic ecosystem wherein public buyers from various backgrounds can exchange ideas, partake in educational workshops, and actively contribute to the development innovative procurement strategies.

The journey towards a more sustainable future is paved with challenges, yet the Community of Public Buyers for Sustainable Solar PV embodies a powerful response: collective action. By uniting public buyers across Europe, this initiative not only aims to transform the market for solar PV but also to set a precedent for how collaboration can drive the transition to renewable energy.

The EU can lead the way in transforming the global solar landscape, demonstrating that a transition to renewable energy can go hand in hand with environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

👉 Check out our video and factsheet for an overview of the mission, challenges, and breakthrough strategies of the Community of Public Buyers for Sustainable Solar PV. Spread the word and be part of the change!


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