As many countries are practising social distancing to curb the spread of the coronavirus, more and more research is being released and studied on how we can build a healthier decarbonized world after the current crisis dies down. The big question now is whether COVID-19 will cause a pause or shift in energy generation trajectories.
The pandemic may accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels as we get a glimpse of clearer skies and cleaner cities, but the pace of this transition to renewable energy sources depends heavily on how governments direct economic recovery spending and also if we, as consumers, change our behaviour patterns significantly.
What leading climate and energy experts agree on is the fact that the struggling oil and gas industry will require fewer workers in their field in the future and changes to air travel may encourage governments to reconsider air pollution problems. Amid all this uncertainty, the renewable energy sector has been one of the most resilient sectors in the face of this crisis.
Low-carbon sources of energy such as wind, solar PV, hydropower, and nuclear are continuing their growth in 2020 to reach 40% of global electricity generation. On the other hand, the amount of gas and coal in the power mix will drop 3% to a level not seen since 2001.
The government, however, will have to focus on employment opportunities in their plan for low-carbon economic growth. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) energy and climate expert,
“Post-COVID fiscal stimulus packages provide an opportunity for initiating a transformational and green recovery with the creation of green jobs.”Mark Radka
Infact, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), finds that transforming the energy system to renewables could boost cumulative global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) gains by US$98 trillion between now and 2050. This would nearly quadruple jobs in the sector to 42 million and expand employment in energy efficiency to 21 million.
Governments across the world have to balance energy policies with those that will help mitigate the global downturn caused by the virus. They must gain public support by making it clear that renewable energy and economic recovery go hand-in-hand. This pandemic, for all the bad that it has caused, is an opportunity for us to speed up the energy transition that we know we have to make.