GALLERY: Top 10 sustainability stories in March 2015

What were the biggest stories for sustainability professionals in March? Find out in our round-up which takes a look-back at the month in pictures.

Amongst pre-election Budget announcements March was a big month for renewables news

Amongst pre-election Budget announcements March was a big month for renewables news

In this month's instalment of top-10 round-up, edie has highlighted some of the news and features our readers were keen to read and share during the month of March 2014.

As well as the pre-election Budget announcements, it was a big month for renewables - delivering 50% of the electricity used in Scotland and contributing to an 8% reduction in the UK's greenhouse gas emissions. Solar had a particular stand-out month as the UK's largest farm opened, but it also powered planes and even grew tomatoes.

Politicians particularly made their voices heard this month as Caroline Lucas was critical of the Governments Green Deal and Tory MP Peter Lilley snubbed expensive renewables during a panel debate, leading to one of our most-read stories of the year so far. 

GALLERY: March's top 10 sustainability news stories

1) Scotland: 50% powered by renewables in 2014

Scotland has met its 50% renewable electricity target a year ahead of schedule after a surge of 11.7% in the past year alone.

Figures published by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for renewable energy generation in 2014 revealed that 49.6% of gross electricity consumption came from renewable sources in Scotland last year - an increase from 44.4% in 2013.

2) System revolutionaries: Sharing economy will destroy inactive incumbents, says Forum for the Future

In an exclusive interview with edie, Forum for the Future's director of sustainability David Bent said he believes the rapid growth of innovative new business models such as the sharing economy and servitisation is putting large, incumbent firms at risk of being left behind in the transition to a sustainable future. 

Bent, who has helped develop sustainability strategies for the likes of Nike, Unilever and M&S, said sharing services such as Airbnb, Uber and Zipcar are now at the forefront of a communal culture shift which threatens to 'destroy' traditional business models.

3) UK's largest (and greenest) solar farm connects to grid

The 48MW Southwick Estate Solar Farm in Hampshire is now operating as the UK's largest solar farm following grid connection earlier in the month.

The project, which is generating enough renewable electricity to supply the equivalent of 14,500 homes, has overtaken the UK's previous largest solar farm - the46MW Landmead solar farm in Oxfordshire - by just 2MW of capacity.

4) Take-off for round-the-world solar flight

A plane that is attempting to be the first to fly round the world without fuel successfully took off on the first leg of its journey from Abu Dhabi. 

The Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) is capable of flying both day and night purely powered by 17,000 solar cells installed along its both its wings. The plane will travel 35,000km around the world in 25 days over the course of the next 5 months. 

The project founders are looking to take advantage of the publicity generated by the journey by launching the #FutureIsClean movement in alliance with Richard Branson.

5) Renewables rocket as emissions plummet in latest Government figures

UK greenhouse gas emissions fell by more than 8% in the last year, while renewables accounted for a fifth of all UK electricity, according to provisional numbers released by DECC. 

The standout figure in the Government's 2014 emissions report was an 8% drop in total emissions, reportedly driven by greener energy generation. This was because renewables generated a record 19% of the UK's electricity in 2014, rising to 22% in the fourth quarter of the year.

6) Caroline Lucas: Green Deal disaster sums up chaotic coalition

In another exclusive, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas labelled the Green Deal an "absolute disaster" which epitomises a so-called green Government that has failed to deliver on a raft of environmental policies.

Speaking to edie in the aftermath of a heated panel debate between the four main political parties, Lucas said the coalition's Green Deal, launched at the start of 2013, has caused "untold damage when it comes to insulating people's homes". 

edie also spoke exclusively to Green party Leader natalie Bennett this month on how the green economy is a missed opportunity.

7) Budget 2015: Key points & green business reaction 

"We back oil and gas," proclaimed George Osborne in his 2015 Budget announcement, but the Chancellor did announce some positive news for the sharing economy, low emission vehicles and renewable energy. 

In what he called "a Budget that takes Britain one more big step on the road from austerity to prosperity," Osborne said that a strong oil and gas industry was absolutely vital. edie live blogged the announcements as they came in.

8) Giant greenhouse grows tomatoes using solar-powered desalination

A commercial greenhouse that grows tomatoes using desalinated water produced by solar-thermal technology will save 700 million litres of freshwater and 14,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year.

Sundrop Farms, which supplies fresh fruit and vegetables to businesses across Australia, has secured £76m worth of private funding for the 20-hectare (0.2km2) greenhouse in Port Augusta, South Australia.

9) Tory MP snubs 'expensive renewables' in climate clash

The Conservative Party's low-carbon ambitions were thrown into question as one of its MPs became embroiled in a row about the science of climate change and condemned further investment in renewables.

During another heated political debate which was supposed to focus on how the next Government will replace the UK's polluting power stations with green alternatives, Peter Lilley took his time at the plinth to suggest that politicians of all parties - including his own - have "enormously exaggerated" the effects of global warming.

Before Osborne's Budget announcement - his last of the current Parliament - edie heard from an array of sustainability professionals and green groups on theirhopes and expectations from the 2015 Budget

10) Europe's new circular economy package will be 'country-specific'

The European Commission's 'more ambitious' circular economy package will include country-specific waste-reduction targets and a specific roadmap for the implementation of closed-loop business processes.

Speaking at the 2015 European Circular Economy Conference in Brussels at the beginning of the month, the European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs, and Fisheries, Karmenu Vella, explained that the re-tabled waste legislative proposal will be "more country-sensitive", addressing a range of economic sectors in addition to waste.

Lucinda Dann



Energy efficiency & low-carbon
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