EU to Quantify Carbon Footprint of Solar Modules Used in the Region

It proposes a maximum threshold for the carbon footprint of solar modules


The European Commission has developed a methodology to quantify the carbon footprint of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules used and manufactured in the EU region, to be implemented as a regulation termed as Ecodesign Directive.

The Ecodesign Directive will ensure that the PV modules and related materials have been sourced, manufactured, used, and disposed of in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Under the European Green Deal, the EU aims to decarbonize its energy sector. With solar at the forefront of the renewable transition in the region, the Commission feels the need to ensure that the newly installed photovoltaic modules used in the EU are affordable, competitive, and environmentally friendly.

The researchers from the Commission shared their findings in the recently published paper titled “Assessing the carbon footprint of photovoltaic modules through the EU Ecodesign Directive.”

The European Commission established a third Ecodesign Working Plan (European Commission, 2016), which identified PV modules and inverters as one of the non-regulated product groups with the largest potential for environmental savings and indicated the need for more detailed investigation into possible environmental improvements.

Following this, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission studied the environmental impact of PV products.


The researchers have developed a methodology for calculating the carbon footprint of PV modules in the manufacturing and shipping phases following a cradle-to-gate approach.

The methodology includes the life cycle assessment hotspot analysis, which will be used to identify the areas with the most environmental impacts through the lifecycle of a PV module. The analysis will cover the usage of water and other resources used during the manufacturing and operational life of the modules.

The directive will also include adapting Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules (PEFCRs) in the eco-design requirements for the PV modules. A new set of harmonized calculation rules will be set to calculate the carbon impact of the modules from the manufacturing to shipping phases.

The method will perform a sensitivity analysis of the modules’ silicon content, yield, and the electricity grid mix used in the manufacturing phase before calculating the final results.

The results will then be interpreted and shared with stakeholders for a consultation to help set up the modules’ carbon footprint requirements.

The researchers also proposed introducing general or parameter-specific quantitative requirements establishing a maximum allowed threshold for the carbon footprint of PV modules. It would require the manufacturers to provide the carbon footprint information of these modules on their energy labels or datasheet.

In April this year, members of the European Parliament approved the European Union’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which seeks to impose a carbon tariff on carbon-intensive products imported into Europe.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament adopted the revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, mandating the use of solar rooftop systems for all new buildings by 2028 and renovating residential buildings by 2032.