Ember’s first year

Turning power sector data into climate action

by | Mar 10, 2021

Ember was launched in March 2020 with a mission to accelerate the global electricity transition from coal to clean. It brings together a team of power sector experts who turn data into action, with the goal of driving real-world change to limit global heating to 1.5C.

We take a look back at our journey so far and the impact we achieved in our first year.

The spark that became Ember

Ember’s roots go back to 2008, when we were founded as Sandbag by Baroness Bryony Worthington to reform the EU carbon market. We helped achieve reform that took the carbon price from €2 to €30, but as we dug deeper into the emissions data it became clear to us that coal power was Europe’s biggest climate problem. It also offers a huge climate solution: half of the emissions cuts needed by 2030 will come from phasing-out coal power globally. 

In March 2020, we re-branded as Ember, expanding our reach globally and focusing our mission on accelerating the transition from coal to clean electricity. Our co-directors Charles, Dave and Phil brought together a diverse team of people from around the world who understand the power grid, are passionate about evidence-led policy change and are committed to using data to tackle the climate crisis. 

Putting data into action

Our aim is to make decarbonising the power sector understandable and accessible to campaigners and policymakers. We provide free-to-use data and unbiased analysis to help drive evidence-led policy change and shift the narrative.

In our first year, we established partnerships around the world and published a global data dashboard, 14 reports, 19 blogs and grew our reach on social media. We have used this power sector data and analysis to make real-world change.

We have supported high impact, politically-viable policies that lead to a zero-carbon electricity system.

We highlighted Poland’s coal mine methane problem, shaping the EU methane strategy and engaging with mining companies

We showed there is a significant coal-to-gas risk in Europe, securing restrictions for fossil gas in the Just Transition Fund

We showed how India’s coal may have already peaked and engaged with national partners to share policy recommendations

We have empowered campaign organisations with trusted and easy-to-use data and analysis, helping to drive forward evidence-led campaigns and contextualise their country’s progress against others.

We published the world’s first unbiased analysis of the global electricity transition, empowering campaigners with country-by-country data and trends

We analysed national climate plans to 2030 for all EU countries and helped NGOs target the 7 countries blocking Europe’s electricity transition

We developed a robust energy pathway for a coal-free Czechia by 2030, helping to strengthen campaigns ahead of its phase-out decision

We have shaped the global narrative, securing extensive media coverage around the world to show the growing momentum of the global electricity transition and draw attention to key barriers to progress.

FT: China’s coal-intensive economic recovery jeopardises Xi’s climate pledge

Tagesspiegel: Loss-making German hard coal receives huge state payout

Reuters: Renewables overtook fossil fuels in EU electricity mix in 2020

Renewables overtook fossil fuels in EU Power Sector in 2020

Looking ahead

To limit global heating to 1.5 degrees and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, Europe and the OECD need to phase-out coal power by 2030, and globally by 2040. We will continue to expand our work in target countries around the world to drive a shift from coal to clean electricity, avoiding false solutions like fossil gas and unsustainable biomass.

The team has had an extraordinary year making an impact on climate and energy policy around the planet.

  • In China, Muyi’s data has shown how aluminium production is driving coal use.
  • In Poland, Małgorzata’s analysis has opened a new conversation with utilities to tackle coal mine methane.
  • In Czechia, Chris has led energy system modelling which helped local campaign groups have a real impact on the coal phase-out commission.
  • In India, Aditya is shifting regulations on subcritical coal plants.
  • In Germany, Sarah challenged the flawed hard coal auction process.
  • In the UK, Grace broke the story that for the first time renewables beat coal.
  • Our data experts Pete & Euan have been building partnerships, including with Our World in Data and Statista, as well as publishing a data transparency report.
  • Tom is investigating coal-to-biomass conversions and Nic is analysing coal shipping data ahead of publications later this year.
  • We’re delighted that the team continues to grow, recently welcoming Ali and Ufuk.

I’m excited to see what the team will do in 2021 as we support the fight against coal in new countries.

Phil MacDonald

COO, Ember

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