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Happy Earth Day 2020

Today is Earth Day, a date in the calendar that’s observed worldwide to show support for environmental protection. It’s also a good time to reflect on the continuing advance of renewable energy in the UK and elsewhere. 

John McConnell, Earth Day’s founder and creator, was as concerned for people as for the environment, and was among the first to identify the destructive potential of plastics.

With the tragedy and inconvenience of Covid-19 upon us, it’s perhaps easy to forget the importance of looking after our planet for future generations. But environmental protection remains a fundamental concern and our progress and setbacks in achieving it are increasingly scrutinised.

According to some, now the coronavirus lockdown has given us a taste (or restored the memory) of clean air, empty streets and birdsong, it will be politically impossible to go back, and demand for a better environment can only gain pace.

Galbraith remains committed to playing its part, working with clients to facilitate and promote renewable-energy projects in Scotland and the North of England. Catch up on some of our initiatives in the bumper 20th issue of our magazine Energy Matters.

Solar use in the UK accounted for almost 30% of UK electricity demand on Monday 20 April, breaking a peak generation record and rounding off more than 11 consecutive days when the UK operated without coal.

Solar generation reached a peak of 9.68GW at lunchtime, it was reported in edie.net, beating the previous record of 9.55GW recorded on 13 May 2019. The latest achievement is attributable not only to sunnier weather but also to favourable generating conditions, in part due to lower pollution levels resulting from the coronavirus lockdown.

Meanwhile Sweden has become the third European country to close it last coal-fired power station, according to businessgreen.com, following Austria and Belgium in removing coal from its grid.

The UK’s final coal plant is set to close its final plant in 2024, finally ending decades of reliance on the solid fuel that shaped the Industrial Revolution and helped define the country’s history. But given the continued fall in renewable-energy costs, some believe coal could be phased out faster than projected and as air-quality rules bite, energy companies could hasten their net-zero transition plans.

All the while, investors worldwide are moving from fossil-fuel extraction towards greener energy sources – a transition unlikely to be halted by continued backing for coal in China and India. The dominant long-term trend is clear.

Though nuclear remains the only zero-carbon energy source that can deliver baseload energy in all climate conditions, wind, solar, tidal and anaerobic-digestion technologies are ever more efficient and capable of delivering clean energy at minimal environmental cost.

Yet while the UK is blessed with very good conditions for on- and offshore wind power, a big problem remains how to store the energy such technologies produce, reliably and on a sufficiently large scale.

Huge amounts are being invested by both fund managers and government in solving the storage challenge and major progress is being made by private companies, as we reported in the last Energy Matters (p12).

On Earth Day, amid the negative news and uncertainty, let’s redouble our determination to make a better world.