The CEE Ethical Sourcing Working Group drafted a position statement on ethical sourcing of solar components, especially solar panels, which was adopted by the CEE Board on 7 June. Please read and take to your organisation's board.
Join our Ethical Sourcing Working Group
We invite you to become a part of our Ethical Sourcing Working Group. Our meetings take place on the first Tuesday of every month from 4-5pm. If you are interested in joining, please reach out to Duncan Law. Our group has been diligently working on creating a comprehensive resource for our members to aid them in sourcing "least worse" equipment. Additionally, we aim to raise awareness among all stakeholders to drive improvements in the market.
Jon Halle of Big Solar Coop and Sharenergy has written two blogs for Community Energy Fortnight on embodied carbon in solar panels - some are 500% worse than others and human rights in the solar supply chain.
Big Solar Coop will produce a case study in due course on their recent £400,000 procurement of panels in which they prioritised ethical sourcing as far as is possible. We aim to do an informative workshop on Ethical Sourcing at our Conference, Tuesday 19 September, in London.
Statement from CEE on ethical sourcing of solar PV
“Over recent years Community Energy England has become aware that there are concerns regarding the solar PV supply chain from both a human rights perspective and with regard to the embodied carbon in solar manufacture.
There are documented claims that many of the solar modules available in the UK market may contain raw materials from regions where there is evidence of forced labour in the solar supply chain.
Embodied carbon in solar manufacture is a parallel issue. Although it appears that even solar modules with high embodied carbon generate electricity which lowers the carbon intensity of the UK grid considerably, the decarbonisation impact of our solar projects can be very significantly improved if we are able to specify solar modules with lower embodied carbon.
Research carried out by our members as part of our Ethical Sourcing Working Group indicates that these claims are credible and deserve to be taken very seriously by the community energy sector.
Unfortunately at this time there is very little information available which would enable community energy organisations to make informed decisions about the sourcing of their solar modules and other equipment. Very few, if any, of the solar modules available in the UK come with robust independent supply-chain and carbon audits. Our members are currently obliged to attempt to make ethical sourcing decisions on the basis of press reports, company statements and circumstantial evidence.
We believe that the practice of forced labour is utterly unacceptable and that it is of equal importance that the technologies we use are those which reduce carbon emissions the most.
We will continue to work through all channels with the aim to ensure that community energy organisations are able to reliably source solar equipment that is free from forced labour at every stage of the supply chain and which maximises the decarbonisation potential of their projects.
The Ethical Sourcing group is working to produce a resource for members, bringing together what we know about different solar manufacturers. The low quality of available data means that this will not be a definitive guide but a resource to aid research, linking to such evidence as we are currently aware of from a range of sources, and encouraging others to build upon it.
We are actively looking to engage researchers to improve the scope and quality of the data we hold. At the same time we are looking to work with other organisations across the sectors (campaigning, industry, government) to address these issues through publicity, industry frameworks and agreements, the development of alternative supply chains, and legislation.”