As the global economy transitions toward more renewable sources of energy, solar photovoltaics (PV) will play an increasingly prominent role. Because the generation of electricity from solar power produces no greenhouse gas emissions, it is widely considered to be "clean" energy.
However, the solar industry still faces serious issues that must be addressed if the industry is to be truly clean, green and socially just. These include potential environmental, health, and safety (EHS) hazards resulting from the manufacture and disposal of solar panels. In addition, the industry must ensure safe and equitable working conditions throughout solar supply chains.
The solar industry is based on the goal of providing clean energy that supports long-term environmental health and sustainability. It is therefore clearly in the industry's best interests to address these remaining issues effectively. The strong public credibility and political support already won by the industry would be greatly compromised if solar energy were to be associated with negative social or environmental practices.
In January 2009, the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) launched a campaign to address these issues with the release of Toward a Just and Sustainable Solar Energy Industry. This report detailed the hazards related to the manufacturing and disposal of solar PV panels. SVTC's 2010 Solar Company Survey and Scorecard builds on the recommendations of that report.
This is the first solar scorecard, and it is an initial step in measuring companies' commitment to take responsibility for the impact of their products. We plan to update the scorecard annually to reflect the dynamic nature of the industry. The scorecard serves as a resource for institutional purchasers, investors, and consumers- anyone who wants to be sure that the solar PV panels they purchase are produced by companies that are responsible stewards throughout product lifecycles. The survey also enables companies to see where they rank relative to their competitors and where they need improvement.
We greatly appreciate the efforts of the companies that chose to respond fully to the survey. We see this as a first step in working together to share information, to improve practices, and to protect communities, workers, and the environment. This collaboration will help build a firm foundation for the long-term growth of the sector.