By: Ivie Ehanmo, Electricity Sector Transformation Expert, Nigeria
- COVID-19 is rewriting the future of the global energy landscape in terms of fossil fuels and renewables.
- There is a crucial need to ensure cleaner energy sources of energy in ensuring energy access in line with the global energy transition.
- The IEA has stated that the outbreak of COVID-19 would wipe out demand for fossil fuels by prompting a collapse in energy demand seven times greater than the slump caused by the global financial crisis.
- By 2050, IRENA estimates that renewables will need to provide almost all electricity world-wide, compared with about 26% today. The share of renewables based on total primary energy supply, will need to increase from 14% today to around 65% in 2050.
- Renewable Energy sources in ensuring clean energy access is more likely to fall in line with internationally agreed targets such as the Paris Agreement and SDG’s than fossil fuels, thus signalling the political will for a more resilient, climate-safe future.
Renewable energy sources have been termed as being the backbone of the future decarbonized system especially considering the global pandemic. By 2050, IRENA estimates that renewables will need to provide almost all electricity world-wide, compared with about 26% today. The share of renewables based on total primary energy supply, will need to increase from 14% today to around 65% in 2050.
How will Renewable Energy achieve these estimates in light of the pandemic?
Renewable energy is contributing enormously in the fight against COVID-19 through the provision of essential energy services during the pandemic especially with secured power for health centres and hospitals.
Renewables are also playing a crucial role in serving the world’s poorest people with energy access which in turn creates opportunities for local communities to add value in terms of local manufacturing and production, local industries, local services, etc.
What needs to be in place for Renewable Energy to scale up further during and post COVID-19?
Economies with existing renewable energy policies need to scale up incentives targeted towards encouraging the viability of renewable energy projects by driving down costs for renewable technologies, e.g. tax incentives. Governments must therefore include clean energy at the heart of economic stimulus packages to ensure a green recovery. Other key drivers to encourage investments in renewable energy include- viable business models, clear policy, legal and regulatory frameworks, etc. In terms of emerging technologies to be deployed, new policy frameworks can be developed and implemented to incentivise new and emerging technologies for the attainment of decarbonized power sectors.
What will be the future fate of fossil fuels?
According to the IEA, the energy sector is the major contributor to air pollution world-wide. Research suggests that existing air pollution may be a key contributor to the COVID-19 death toll.
The collapse of fossil fuel demand could lead global emissions to fall by 8% compared with 2019.
Implementation of clear phase-out policies for fossil fuels is paramount, countries therefore need to adopt technologies that reduce or eliminate the environmental footprint of fossil fuels such as carbon capture use and storage, etc.
Conclusion The instability of fossil fuel prices presents a global opportunity to accelerate the shift to clean energy. The steady rise of renewable energy combined with the collapse in demand for fossil fuels means clean electricity will play its largest ever role in the global energy system this year and help erase a decade’s growth of global carbon emissions.
- Damilola Ogunbiyi: CEO & Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Sustainable, Energy for All (SEforALL) & Co-Chair of UN-Energy.
- Dr. David Jacobs ‘Policy Brief for the Global Renewable Congress- Making Societies more resilient: the role of renewables in COVID-19 recovery packages’ at https://www.renewablescongress.org/wp-content/uploads/GRC_Policy_Brief_Renewables_in_COVID19.pdf
- IRENA: ‘Global Renewables Outlook 2020’ at https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Apr/Global-Renewables-Outlook-2020
- Covid-19 crisis will wipe out demand for fossil fuels, says IEA at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/apr/30/covid-19-crisis-demand-fossil-fuels-iea-renewable-electricity
- Jennifer Layke and Norma Hutchinson ‘3 Reasons to Invest in Renewable Energy Now’ at https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/05/coronavirus-renewable-energy-stimulus-packages