The day our renewable energy ran out

It was a sad day today in Belgium. Not only because of the weather, we are used to that. It was also Grey Day. February 5 was the hypothetical day when our renewable energy ran out for 2020.

In Belgium, 9.4% of all the energy originates from renewable resources in 2020. If we would only use renewable energy, we would run out of it by February 5. It is called Grey Day. The rest of the year, we would generate nuclear power and burn fossil fuels to supply us with the energy we need. Most European countries are doing better, except for the Netherlands (January 28), for example. For the whole European Union, the date would be March 8.

The worse thing is that this part of the energy is only slowly increasing. Really slowly. It was only increased by 0.3% from 2019 and it was already about 8.7% in 2016. It seems unimaginable that we could ever switch to renewable energy exclusively. Well, ‘ever’ would be around 2320, while we should have zero CO2 emission by 2050 to keep the temperature increase around 1.5°C.

How can we improve?

There are 2 things we can do to improve:

  1. Generate more renewable energy
  2. Use less energy

I think that both options are equally important. We, as individuals, might contribute to the latter easier by changing our personal habits. For example, by how we are using the internet for our work and communication.

Grey internet

The internet requires a giant amount of energy. This makes the internet mostly grey.

You could also look at this another way: you are using renewable energy only about 10% of the time that you are surfing the internet in Belgium.

Or we could see mindless scrolling of social media as a grey part of our day. It might make us grey people. Maybe we could all do that much less. It would give us more time to spend for purposeful things with the people around us.

Maybe we could just use the internet 90% less?

Web people can do more

We, web designers and developers, can do much more. We can make websites and applications much leaner and more sustainable. A web page, like this, that does not have unnecessary bloat, loads in less kilobytes and is hosted by a green host, is greener.

Maybe we could build the internet 90% smaller with regard to data storage and transfer?

So, Grey Day was a sad day. But sad days are followed by better days, days that allow us to act and change things for the better.

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