Renewables race ahead as UK feeds plastic problem

Written by Lori Campbell on 25th Jan 2021

Renewable energy overtakes fossil fuels as the European Union’s main source of electricity for the first time as supermarkets sold 2.5 billion plastic bottles of water – 37 for every person in the UK – last year. Meanwhile, Tesco issues a £665 million green bond linked to its climate goals, plane manufacturer Boeing announces it will build commercial planes that can fly on 100 per biofuel by 2030, and French tech firm Schneider Electric is named the world’s most sustainable company. It’s the Good With Money weekly news brief.


Renewables overtook fossil fuels in EU in 2020

Renewables overtook fossil fuels as the European Union’s main source of electricity for the first time in 2020, a new report reveals.

Clean energy sources such as wind and solar generated 38 per cent of the 27-member state bloc’s electricity in 2020, with fossil fuels such as coal and gas contributing 37 per cent.

The study by think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende showed that Denmark achieved the highest proportion of wind and solar power, which contributed 61 per cent of its electricity needs in 2020. Ireland achieved 35 per cent and Germany 33 per cent.

Countries with the lowest share of renewables, below 5 per cent, were Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, coal-fired power generation fell 20 per cent in 2020 and has halved since 2015.

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Supermarkets sold 2.5 billion bottles of water in 2019

The ten biggest UK supermarkets sold a massive 2.5 billion plastic bottles of water in 2019, as the consumption of plastic shows no sign of slowing down.

A report by Greenpeace UK and the Environmental Investigation Agency shows big stores sold the equivalent of 37 plastic water bottles for every person in the UK that year.

According to the data, Tesco was the biggest seller of bottled water in 2019, shifting more than 801 million, followed by Sainsbury’s, which sold 314 million.

Greenpeace has called on supermarkets to ban the plastic and introduce free water refill stations for shoppers with reusable bottles.

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Tesco issues £665 million bond linked to sustainability goals

Tesco has become one of the first major UK retailers to issue a bond linked to its commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The bond is valued at €750 million (£665 million) with a coupon (annual interest rate paid on the bond) of 0.375 per cent over 8.5 years.

The move follows Tesco’s announcement in October 2020 of a £2.5 billion revolving credit facility, with interest linked to the achievement of three ambitious environmental targets.

In 2009, the supermarket giant was one of the first businesses to set a zero-carbon goal at a global level. It was also the first FTSE 100 Company to set science-based carbon reduction targets in line with keeping global warming under 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial revolution levels.

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Boeing to debut 100% biofuel planes by 2030

Plane manufacturer Boeing has announced it will build commercial airplanes capable of flying on 100 per cent biofuel by the end of the decade.

Boeing’s goal – which requires advances to jet systems, raising fuel-blending requirements, and safety certification by global regulators – says reducing environmental damage from fossil fuels is the “challenge of our lifetime.”

Commercial flying currently accounts for about 2 per cent of global carbon emissions and about 12 per cent of transport emissions, according to data from the Air Transport Action Group.

Boeing has committed to slashing its carbon emissions in half by 2050. It essentially has just a decade to reach its target because jetliners that enter service in 2030 will typically stay in service through 2050.

“It’s a tremendous challenge, it’s the challenge of our lifetime,” Boeing’s director of sustainability strategy, Sean Newsum, told Reuters. “Aviation is committed to doing its part to reduce its carbon footprint.”

French tech firm named world’s most sustainable company

Paris-based tech company Schneider Electric has been named the most sustainable corporation on the planet.

Schneider Electric offers the technology and energy solutions needed by the likes of retailer Walmart, hotel group Marriott and steel business ArcelorMittal to meet their climate targets. It has climbed the annual Global 100 index, from a ranking of 29 last year to the top spot in 2021.

The annual green company league table, compiled by researcher Corporate Knight, ranked over 8,000 publicly listed companies which generate annual revenues of over $1 billion (£0.73 billion) to find the most sustainable businesses.

In the latest rankings, Schneider ousted Danish windpower giant Ørsted from last year’s top spot.

The UK has only five companies in the league table and none in the top 10. Britain’s highest-ranking company was Atlantica Sustainable Infrastructure, a renewable energy services company, which is the 12th most sustainable company in the world.

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