Renewables overtook fossil fuels to become the European Union’s main source of electricity for the first time in 2020, according to a joint study done by British and German think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende respectively, released this week.
“Renewables rose to generate 38 percent of Europe’s electricity in 2020 (compared to 34.6 percent in 2019), for the first-time overtaking fossil-fired generation, which fell to 37 percent. This is an important milestone in Europe’s clean energy transition” the study said.
The study added, however, that the transition from coal to clean is still too slow for reaching 55 percent greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050, which the EU has set as goals.
While COVID-19 had an impact in all countries on energy usage, its impact on the overall trend from fossil fuels to renewables was quite limited. Instead, “the rise in renewables was reassuringly robust despite the pandemic.”
The report noted that the fall in fossil-fired electricity might have been even more dramatic, had it not been for a bounce-back in electricity demand and the worst year on record for nuclear generation.
Wind and solar are powering Europe’s renewables rise.
Wind generation rose 9 percent in 2020 and solar generation rose 15 percent; together, they generated a fifth of Europe’s electricity in 2020. Since 2015, wind and solar have supplied all of Europe’s growth in renewables, as bioenergy growth has stalled, and hydro generation remains unchanged, according to the study.
Renewables rise is still too slow – wind and solar generation growth must nearly triple to reach Europe’s 2030 green deal targets: from 38 TWh (TeraWatt Hour(s)) per year average growth in 2010-2020 to 100 TWh per year average growth between 2020-2030.
As electricity demand bounces back in 2021, wind and solar will need to rise at a faster rate if the recent falls in coal are to be sustained. Gas generation fell only 4 percent in 2020, despite the pandemic. Most of the fall in fossil fuels was in coal-generated energy rather than gas in 2020, the report noted.
Nuclear generation fell by 10 percent in 2020 – probably the largest fall ever – and that also kept gas (and to a lesser-extent coal) generation from falling further. This means Europe’s electricity in 2020 was 29 percent cleaner than in 2015.
“Wind and solar installations were surprisingly robust in 2020 despite COVID-19, and 2021 might see record new wind and solar installations. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates there will be 18 percent less wind capacity installed in the European Union in 2020 than in 2019, but that it will sharply increase in 2021 due to new growth in France, Poland and Denmark.”
According to the report, Europe’s solar picture is brighter still: the IEA estimates that solar installed in the European Union will increase by 16 percent in 2020 – once final figures are compiled – compared to 2019 due mostly to utility-scale deployment from auctions in Germany, France and Poland.
Dramatic increases for solar energy are forecast for 2021 as many countries begin to step up deployment, according to the report.
Carbon removal technology launched by UK entrepreneurs
UK entrepreneurs and investors Matt Isaacs, Andrew Shebbeare, and Andy Bonsall announced Thursday the launch of “Counteract” to combat against the climate crisis through research, development, and investment in carbon removal technology.
According to a statement from the initiative, “Counteract will help engineer and scientist entrepreneurs with the early-stage investment, commercialization, access to community, and communications support required to develop businesses capable of capturing or storing greenhouse gases at gigaton scale.”
The mitigation of the harshest impacts of climate change will require increasing carbon capture from 0.04 Gigatons in 2020 to 5.6 gt by 2050, notes the International Energy Agency, a growth rate faster than the oil industry peak.
Counteract will support very early-stage concepts and ventures across the spectrum of carbon removal technology such as enhanced weathering, blue and soil carbon, direct air capture, afforestation/reforestation, and new sequestration channels.
“This decade will set the trajectory for humankind’s response to climate change. Time is too short for vital innovations to get stuck in the lab or ideas to languish on paper. We know that solutions proven in theory or at pilot scale now need wide-ranging support and patient capital to break through. We are excited to launch Counteract today to help turn great ideas into scalable solutions that will make a material impact in our lifetimes,” Counteract co-founder Andrew Shebbeare said in a statement.
He added that with the right effort and response, it is very possible to remove enough carbon from the atmosphere to avert enormous suffering. “We believe that for those who are willing to prioritize impact over short term returns, carbon removal also presents an extraordinary commercial opportunity,” Shebbeare highlighted.
With increasing investment interest and philanthropic support for climate solutions, and the carbon marketplace estimated to exceed $10B within the next five years, the market for private investments in this space is destined for significant growth, experts note.
The Counteract initiative will announce a first round of investments and partnerships in the coming months.
Counteract was founded by experienced entrepreneurs and investors from the world of digital media, finance, technology, and consulting, with early backgrounds in engineering, economics, and material science, and “a shared track of growing organizations from startup to global scale.
Digital inclusion: what is being done for vulnerable members of society?
As the wave of digital transformation carries us to exciting new heights of progress in business and personal development, industries must stop to consider the challenges of digital access faced by more vulnerable groups in society.
In this era of rapid technological advancements, enterprises are realizing the need for greater initiatives to encourage growth and participation of all customers, so that no one is left behind. “It’s time for the mobile industry to take steps to ensure our products and services are accessible, unlocking the power of connectivity so that all people thrive,” said Mats Granryd, Director General of the GSMA.
GSMA driving digital inclusion
Industry organization GSMA has launched the “Principles for Driving the Digital Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities” aiming at encouraging the mobile industry to help close the mobile disability gap.
The industry has developed guidelines with the help of disability and accessibility experts and mobile operators, outlining three regulations to increase digital inclusion for disabled people. These principles have been devised to ensure disability inclusion is adopted at every level of an organization, identifying how to reach and serve people with disabilities and delivering inclusive products and services.
One of the solutions proposed is to combine multiple assistive technologies in a single device, making mobile phones cost-effective tools to facilitate inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities.
However, persons with disabilities are less likely to own smartphones and use mobile internet than persons without disabilities, according to a research by GSMA. The World Health Organization (WHO) also estimates that 80% of persons with disabilities live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which presents long-term challenges for initiatives that aim to break digital access barriers in under-resourced settings.
Innovation to help serve people with disabilities
In addition, some of the ways for an organization to reach and serve communities include collecting and analyzing data to better understand how disabled customers are using services. Conducting frequent consumer research to find out if the services are meeting the needs of customers with disabilities.
According to GSMA, several other options are present to enhance the access for disabled people and increase the chances of accessing digital platforms by developing handsets focusing on content, as well as creating products and services that are affordable and accessible to all. “Putting provisions in place such as customer service advisors trained in teaching customers how to use such devices as potential ways to ensure the delivery of inclusive products and services.”
Closing the digital access gap is no easy feat; it requires collective collaboration and long-term planning from governments and industries alike. GSMA-driven initiatives will help raise awareness, reduce inequalities and drive change.
Crowdfunding: A silent hero in the Covid-19 era
As the world preps itself for a second wave of Covid-19 and vaccine development continues, one cannot deny the hardships humanity has faced this year.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes struggled, economies slowed, and people were overworked from the comfort of their own homes. But if there’s one thing that defines successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, it’s their determination in the face of adversity.
The silent hero and lifeline for that determination has been online crowdfunding.
Platforms such as Indiegogo, Patreon, GoFundMe, and others were the lifeline of many small to medium enterprises (SMEs), as well as solo entrepreneurs working away at their passion projects from the confines of their living rooms.
During 2020, visits to crowdfunding platforms tripled, as 300,000 people actively donated to different projects and causes this month alone, according to numbers by Deloitte.
During the height of the pandemic, brick-and-mortar businesses experienced a painfully screeching halt to their operations, while digitally literate businesses have fared much better during the lockdown.
According to numbers revealed by Indiegogo, the platform witnessed an increase in overall traffic at nearly 14 percent compared to the same time last year, and daily funds raised on the site were up 24 percent compared to the second half of March 2019.
“An air conditioner, an e-bike, and a coffee grinder gained top billing on Indiegogo in March 2020, revealing a world stuck at home and raring to get back into the world,” the report by the crowdfunding site highlighted.
While a world stuck at home sought to fund passion projects across the aisle, there were several Covid-19 related campaigns published on these sites. This is cause for concern since cyberattacks have skyrocketed during 2020, mainly due to hackers highly exploiting the pandemic.
According to India-based market researcher, Market Research Future, the Covid-19 outbreak has significantly altered the healthcare industry worldwide, throwing several challenges at it.
The overwhelming scenario, since the advent of the novel coronavirus pandemic, has been further aggravated by the alarming rise in cybersecurity threats.
“Malicious hackers are leveraging the pandemic by launching a slew of ransom-ware attacks and phishing campaigns. It is not surprising that following the onset of SARS-CoV-2 and the increased vulnerability due to the lockdown, hackers have become even more active than ever before,” the report highlighted.
Many of these crowdfunding platforms have taken note of this and acted on being wary of these potentially illicit activities; some of these platforms have kept a close eye on Covid-19 related campaigns, as well as stepping up their review processes using the U.S. Department of Justice’s guidelines toward predatory campaigns that take advantage of people in need.
“Accordingly, products claiming to be anti-viral or specifically mentioning the coronavirus are actively being monitored by our Trust and Safety team. Without providing proof of efficacy, the campaigns that we contact and/or fall under this category will be taken down. We have no intention of allowing people to take advantage of the Indiegogo community by using Covid-19 as a selling point,” Indiegogo said in a statement.
Crowdfunding has grown in popularity in an attempt to help startups, SMEs, and even philanthropic causes receive funding during these hard times.
Not only that, but these platforms have opened the door for individuals as well as NGOs to create awareness campaigns about Covid-19 while raising funds for procuring emergency kits and to assist food banks.
In parallel, crowdfunding is also actively working to assist the people most effected by the pandemic and its lockdown such as maids, watchmen, plumbers, electricians, and the like.
This has shown that despite national lockdowns, these initiatives have evoked a sense community, solidarity, as well as philanthropic emotions with others.
One can contribute as much as they like according to their will and capacity, without feeling shy or bad about anything. Thus, an important aspect of these platforms is that it provides an avenue for contribution without any social pressure.
Even though if we find ourselves stuck at home, many people are trying to maintain momentum in their daily lives. The pandemic has proved to be an opportunity for people across the world to explore their passion for social initiatives in their otherwise busy lives.
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