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Social Capital

  • Human Rights & Community Relations
  • Customer Privacy
  • Data Security
  • Access & Affordability
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  • Customer Welfare
  • Selling Practices & Product Labeling

Human Capital

  • Labor Practices
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General Issue Category
(Industry agnostic)

Disclosure Topics (Industry specific) for:
Solar Technology & Project Developers

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Energy Management

Energy Management in Manufacturing

Solar panel manufacturing typically uses electrical energy purchased from the grid. Energy can account for a considerable share of the total cost of production. In light of rising energy costs and regulatory uncertainty surrounding the future of fossil-based energy, companies that diversify their energy sources may be better able to manage the associated risks and maintain a reliable energy supply. Companies that minimize their energy use through effective energy management can reduce costs and gain a competitive advantage through operational efficiency and competitive pricing of products. This is particularly important given the intense price competition within the solar technology industry.

Water & Wastewater Management

Water Management in Manufacturing

Solar photovoltaic panel manufacturing can be water-intensive, and ultra-pure water is a critical input in some processes. The manufacturing process can also generate wastewater, which must be treated before disposal or reuse, and can therefore result in operating costs and additional capital expenditures. Furthermore, depending on their location, solar equipment manufacturing facilities may be exposed to the risk of reduced water availability (scarcity) and related cost increases or operational disruptions. The use of local water resources is a risk that can generate tension with local water users, potentially disrupting manufacturing operations and adversely impacting brand value. To mitigate water supply and treatment risks, companies can adopt various strategies such as recycling process water, improving production techniques to lower water intensity, and improving water treatment systems.

Waste & Hazardous Materials Management

Hazardous Waste Management

Solar panel manufacturing may involve the use of hazardous substances that can cause adverse health and environmental impacts if not properly managed. Common thin-film technologies can utilize materials including cadmium, gallium arsenide, and copper indium gallium (di)selenide, which require careful handling during the manufacturing process and disposal. The handling and disposal of hazardous wastes produced during manufacturing can lead to operating costs, capital expenditures, and in some instances result in regulatory costs. As such, effective management of hazardous materials, including through reduction, reuse, recycling, and safe storage and disposal, can lower operating costs and mitigate potential regulatory penalties or reputational damage.

Ecological Impacts

Ecological Impacts of Project Development

Many large, publicly listed solar technology companies are involved in project development, including the evaluation and acquisition of land rights, site permitting, and engagement with stakeholders. Successful development is contingent on securing the approval of environmental permits and the permission of local governments and communities. Siting of medium or large solar installations in ecologically sensitive areas, including endangered species habitats, can render environmental permitting more difficult and costly. Project development may also be affected by local land-use laws and community opposition to projects due to their land footprint or concerns over impacts on local water resources. These factors can slow or disrupt the development process, possibly resulting in higher costs, lost revenues, or project delays. Companies with robust strategies for environmental impact assessment and mitigation can reduce the risk of project delays, increasing the likelihood of timely project completion.

Product Design & Lifecycle Management

Management of Energy Infrastructure Integration & Related Regulations

Companies in the industry have faced challenges in establishing solar energy as a cost-competitive means of energy production and GHG reduction, and have thus encountered difficulty in capturing a greater share of global energy generation. In order to promote greater adoption of solar, the industry can benefit by preventing systemic disruptions to the existing energy infrastructure and essential energy services. Companies are innovating to overcome the technical challenges of increasing solar integration with the grid. They are also engaging with regulatory agencies and policymakers to reduce regulatory barriers to the adoption of solar energy, many of which are emerging due to the concern around increasing overall grid electricity costs and grid disruptions. Solar companies are investing in innovative technologies to reduce hardware and installation costs, and are working toward business-model innovation to reduce the cost of capital and facilitate the purchase of solar energy systems. Solar technology companies can improve their competitiveness through deploying one or more of these strategies successfully to ensure their ability to scale over the long term.

Product End-of-life Management

Solar panels may contain hazardous substances as well as reusable materials of high economic value. Given the rapid expansion of solar energy globally, increasing volumes of solar panels are expected to reach the end of their useful life in the medium term. In some regions, including parts of the EU, manufacturers are required by law to take financial responsibility for their products at the end-of-life stage, including collection and recycling. Product take-back, recycling, and disposal may result in higher upfront investments or capital expenditures for operators in the industry. However, as more modules reach the end of their life and this issue likely receives more legislative attention, companies may differentiate themselves through offering product take-back and recycling services. This could increase revenues as well as result in lower long-term costs by reusing recovered materials in manufacturing processes.

Materials Sourcing & Efficiency

Materials Sourcing

Solar technology companies typically source numerous materials including polysilicon, metals, glass, and electrical components. Companies additionally utilize certain materials that are critical to solar panel and module manufacturing. Limited global resources of these critical materials, as well as their concentration in countries that may have relatively limited governance and regulatory structures or are subject to geopolitical tensions, expose companies to the risk of supply-chain disruptions and input-price increases or volatility. Companies can mitigate associated risks by ensuring transparency in their supply chains, working actively to source materials from reliable suppliers or regions that have minimal environmental or social risks, and supporting research for alternative inputs.

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