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Illustration of a little gas flame and an electricity bolt accepting their green awards

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Cutting carbon

Our top 10 green moments of 2020

We’ve rounded up our favourite good news stories from the world of green energy (and beyond).

1. Renewable power overtook fossil fuels in Europe for the first time ever

In the first half of the year, 40% of Europe’s electricity came from wind, solar, hydro and bioenergy. Fossil fuels contributed just 34%.

In the UK, nearly half (47%) of our electricity came from renewable sources in the first three months of 2020. That smashes the previous quarterly record. As well as giving the country some incredible baby name ideas, we can thank storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge for a big boost to wind generation.

Illustration of a wind turbine beating some coal in a foot race

2. More nations signed up to net zero

Hungary, China, Japan and South Korea have all joined the list of countries which have set ambitious net-zero emissions targets. China is aiming to prevent 10 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions a year from 2030 onwards to reach its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2060.

3. Somebody invented a see-through solar panel

Photo of the new coloured solar panels
image: Dezeen

Engineering student Carvey Ehren Maigue won the first ever Dyson Award for global sustainability for his AuReus system last month. Unlike a traditional solar panel which needs direct sunlight, Carvey’s innovation harvests electricity from UV rays, so it works on cloudy days.

On top of that, the new material is made from waste crops. And because it lets light shine through, it can be used as cladding on windows or walls. So soon enough, all those city skyscrapers could be turning grey days into juicy electricity.

4. Britain’s largest solar farm got the green light

The Cleve Hill Solar Park will begin development in the new year, ready to start producing green electricity from 2023. The site will install 880,000 solar panels across 364 hectares of rural Kent, and it’s expected to generate enough electricity to power 91,000 homes.

5. Almost 90% of electricity generation sites built around the world were renewable

More than 100 GW of solar and about 60 GW of wind power projects were completed globally in 2020, including China’s 2.2 GW solar farm in a desert in the province of Qinghai. According to the IEA, that means a 7% growth in global renewable energy capacity by the end of the year.

a photo of the massive solar farm in China
the solar farm in Qinghai. Image: pv magazine

6. Retail committed to zero emissions by 2040

63 major UK retailers, including supermarkets, fast fashion chains and our favourite Swedish furniture store have signed up to the BRC Climate Action Roadmap, with the ambition to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040. That’s 10 years ahead of the government’s target.

As well as retail operations, the commitment covers supply chains, too. So in 20 short years, UK consumers should be able to buy anything they like in store or online, safe in the knowledge that it hasn’t contributed to warming the planet.

7. Downtown Sydney went green

Since July, the City of Sydney has been powered by 100% renewable energy. The Australian business borough is home to a quarter of a million people, and now sources all of its electricity from wind and solar farms in Glen Innes, Wagga Wagga, and Shoalhaven.

8. The UK went coal-free for over two months straight

That’s 67 days, 22 hours and 55 minutes, to be exact. A surge in renewable energy and low demand during lockdown meant that the UK produced exactly no electricity from fossil fuels for more than two months. Zero. Zilch. This run came to an end on the 16 June, and represents the longest time that the country has gone coal-free since the industrial revolution.

9. Bus batteries gave back to the grid

A London bus garage became home to the world’s largest vehicle-to-grid trial site last month. The Bus2Grid project in Northumberland Park plans to charge its fleet of 28 electric double-decker buses when demand on the grid is low, and then feed energy back into the grid while they’re parked up. If the technology were to be rolled out to all 9,000 London buses, it could power 150,000 homes.

10. Bulb went global

We couldn’t resist mentioning this one. With new offices in France, Spain and Texas, we’ve signed up more than 29,000 international members to green energy. And between them, they’ve lowered their carbon impact by some 69,000 tonnes of CO2 this year. Fantastique. Estupendo. Yee-haw!

Illustration of the globe with pins in the UK, France, Spain and Texas

So there you have it, some feel-good stories just in time for Christmas. Did we miss any of your favourite green moments this year? Let us know over in the Bulb community.