Many states across the country have been forced into mandatory lockdowns due to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The lockdowns have significantly lowered air pollution and global emissions are expected to decline by at least 8% this year during the pandemic. In a study conducted by the International Energy Agency, (IEA) their findings suggest that during the remainder of 2020, renewable energy will be “the only energy source likely to experience demand growth”. As the economy slowly recovers, experts assume that the fossil fuel industry will take a hit and the U.S. will be one step closer to using clean, renewable energy. Since the beginning of May, the U.S. has produced more renewable energy than coal-fired power for 40 straight days. Generation from sources like solar, wind and hydropower have completely overtaken fossil fuels making this an incredible milestone for renewable energy.
In the IEA’s Global Energy Review 2020 report, they examined the similarities and differences that the pandemic has had on all global energy systems. Their findings through mid-April show that countries undergoing a full lockdown are experiencing an average “25% decline in energy demand per week”. Global oil demand, nuclear power plants and natural gas all declined in the first quarter of 2020 while renewable energy demand increased by almost 2%. For many that lobby against the support of renewables, the Global Energy Review 2020 pointed out that the priority dispatch, which helps with the integration of renewable energy into the electricity system to promote security of supply and sustainability, is the main reason why renewables have proven resilient in these unprecedented times when the demand for energy is low.
A Recovering Economy
As economies across the world prepare their recovery plans post pandemic, the IEA predicts the global energy demand will fall by at least 6% this year. Coal-fired power will fall more than 10%, with gas consumption seeing its biggest fall in history, a record 5% slump. Oil demand will drop by 9% in 2020 due to limited mobility and aviation restrictions, while nuclear power is expected to fall 3% since last year. Carbon emissions will see their largest fall ever, with the IEA predicting an almost 8% drop but warning of a rebound that could be larger than ever once things return to normal. Solar and wind power have risen to 9% in the first quarter of 2020 due to warmer weather, lower gas prices and more renewables that were added to the grid in 2019 as well as the significant dip in electricity demand due to individuals staying home. All in all, renewable energy has accounted for over 25% of generation in the first quarter of 2020.
While energy systems across the globe have suffered, there still lies some uncertainty with the small scale solar sector. Because of the lockdowns, installations have slowed or stopped all together. The uncertainty of the economy is sure to halt any homeowners’ future plans for solar rooftop installation or at least postpone them for the time being. While the trend of renewable ascension is expected to continue, experts are now hopeful that solar, wind and hydro energy will exceed coal consumption into 2021, with the COVID-19 crisis accelerating this change. Little was mentioned in the report regarding energy storage.
Regardless of what happens during the economic recovery, one statement reflected the damage that could be done to the fossil fuel industry in the long run, stating, ”Renewables are the only energy source likely to experience demand growth across the remainder of 2020 regardless of the length of lockdown or strength of recovery”.
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