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EGEB: In EU electricity first, renewables overtook fossil fuels in 2020

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • Renewable energy overtook fossil fuels as the EU’s main source of electricity for the first time in 2020.
  • These are the top 10 most sustainable companies in the world, according to the 2021 Global 100 index.
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Renewables break EU record in 2020

In 2020, renewables overtook fossil fuels as the EU’s main source of electricity for the first time.

Renewables generated 38% of Europe’s electricity, overtaking the 37% market share generated by fossil fuels. The study revealed that Europe’s electricity is 29% cleaner than in 2015. This is according to a new study by think tanks Ember and Agora Energiewende, “The European Power Sector in 2020.”

Source: Ember

This was driven by wind and solar power generation almost doubling since 2015 to deliver 20% of EU electricity in 2020. The highest shares of wind and solar were in Denmark (61%), Ireland (35%), Germany (33%), and Spain (29%). 

In contrast, coal power has halved since 2015. In 2020, coal generation fell by 20% to deliver just 13% of Europe’s electricity. In comparison, gas generation fell only 4% in 2020. A robust carbon price meant gas generation was the cheapest form of fossil fuel generation.

Europe’s electricity demand was down 4% in 2020, reaching lows in April at the peak of COVID-19 lockdowns. The rise in renewables was robust despite the pandemic, while the fall in fossil fuels was limited by a bounce-back in demand and below-average nuclear generation.

Dave Jones, Ember’s senior electricity analyst and the lead author of the report, says:

Rapid growth in wind and solar has forced coal into decline but this is just the beginning. Europe is relying on wind and solar to ensure not only coal is phased out by 2030, but also to phase out gas generation, replace closing nuclear power plants, and to meet rising electricity demand from electric cars, heat pumps, and electrolyzers.

Top 10 most sustainable companies

Researcher Corporate Knights today released its 17th annual Global 100 report, “2021 Global 100: How the world’s most sustainable companies outperform.”

The green company league table ranks more than 8,000 publicly listed companies that generate annual revenues of over $1 billion by sustainability. Here are the top 10:

Rank 2021Rank 2020CompanyCountryClimate CommitmentsOverall score
129Schneider ElectricFrance1.5°C, SBTi83.2%
21OrstedDenmark1.5°C, SBTi82.7%
39Banco do BrasilBrazil81.7%
43Neste OyjFinland80.7%
557StantecCanada1.5°C, SBTi80.5%
622McCormick & CompanyUSSBTi79.3%
723KeringFranceSBTi, FCCA78.4%
818Metso OutotecFinlandSBTi78.4%
916American Water Works CompanyUS77.1%
1054Canadian National Railway CoCanadaSBTi77.1%
1.5°C; SBTi = science-based targets initiative; FCCA = Fashion Charter for Climate Action

Corporate Knights points out:

Rather than abandon sustainability pledges, governments around the world have seized on the opportunity presented by the need to kick-start their economies to inject trillions of dollars of green investments into their stimulus plans.

This shift in attitudes has come about in part because of the astonishing fall in the costs of renewable energy, which is now the cheapest source of new power in many parts of the world. From 2009 to 2019, the cost of solar fell 89%, as did batteries, while onshore wind is 70% cheaper.

The Corporate Knights Global 100 index continues to demonstrate that sustainability is good business and enables companies to outperform their peers.

No. 1 French tech company Schneider Electric offers technology and energy solutions needed for efficiency and sustainability by such companies as Walmart, Marriott, and ArcelorMittal to meet their climate targets. Schneider operates in 100 countries and has more than doubled its market value in the last two years to more than €70 billion ($85 billion).

In contrast, Corporate Knights reports:

26 companies left the index, including Toyota, which was weighed down by its dependence on internal-combustion-engine vehicles, and chemicals giant BASF, flagged by UK-based InfluenceMap for lobbying against measures to combat climate change.

In terms of global regions, here’s how the index broke down:

On an individual country basis, the US, with 20 companies, and Canada, with 13, are the best represented, but regionally, Europe continues to dominate the Global 100 with almost half the companies (46) to North America’s 33. The Asia Pacific region hosts 17 of the index’s members, while Latin America (two), Africa (one), and the Middle East (one) continue to lag.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.