Government urged to introduce EPR for renewable energy sector

The renewable energy sector needs to move quicker in its transition towards a circular economy to move away from the “unsustainable” use of critical raw materials, a report today (21 February) has warned.

Without doing so, the renewable energy sector risks becoming complicit with “greenwashing”.

The report sets out how the industry can introduce circular economy models to reduce the environmental impact of renewable energy infrastructure

The report has been produced by circular economy consultancy firm Gate C and commissioned by Green Purposes Company (GPC). The GPC says it “has one primary function: to protect the green purposes of the Green Investment Group”.

It makes recommendations on what more is needed to bring pace and scale to this “essential market” and is being launched in parliament later today in partnership in partnership with cross-party think tank Policy Connect.

An ‘action plan’ was also set out in the report, based on three main levers: Design assets for a circular economy; Build circular value chains; and, Create the right economic and policy conditions. This should be driven by industry players, policymakers and investors, Gate C said.


Called, ‘For a Circular Energy Transition: Action Plan for Industry, Policymakers and Investors’, the report says the switch to renewable energy marks a shift away from a fuel-intensive system to a material-intensive one.

There will already be a “tsunami of waste” from 2030 from photovoltaic panels, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries arriving at the end of life. It added that the recycling of solar panels, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries “does not yet allow the recovery of most critical materials”.

Investing in recycling infrastructure is also risky and not always economically attractive, it added.


To reduce the overall demand for critical raw materials and minimise supply risks and negative environmental and social impacts, the renewable energy sector should transition toward a circular economy, the study says.

Three key circular strategies can be harnessed for the renewable energy sector, as outlined below.

The three key circular strategies outlines in the report

Action plan

The action plan called for investors to require manufacturers to design assets for the circular economy to reduce upfront operations and dismantling costs of solar and wind projects.

EPR for the entire renewable energy sector would ensure ‘dedicated and sufficient funding for the treatment of end-of life equipment’

It also called for policymakers to fund research and development on design for recycling to decrease recycling costs.

This includes introducing extended producer responsibility measures for the entire renewable energy sector to ensure dedicated and sufficient funding for the treatment of end-of life equipment.


The report outlined that the transition to renewable energy is critical in achieving the target set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

However, circular economy business models are needed to help decouple the renewable energy sector from material consumption.

The sector is already facing a “tsunami” of waste in 2030 when wind turbines and solar panels begin to reach end of life.


GPC chair, Trevor Hutchings, said: “It is critical that in helping to address climate change the renewable energy sector does not inadvertently drive environmental problems elsewhere. At best, the sector is missing out on the growing economic opportunity and stronger supply chains that come from a circular economy, at worst, risks becoming complicit in ‘greenwashing’.”

This was echoed by report author, Rémy Le Moigne, who said:  “The transition of the renewable energy sector to a circular economy is essential to ensure the reliability and resilience of critical materials supply. The circular economy can also help reduce carbon emissions and biodiversity loss, and become a source of new value creation and jobs.”


For a Circular Energy Transition: Action Plan for Industry, Policymakers and Investors


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