Opinion - 22/July/2020

The pandemic has changed the course of energy transition

The Covid-19 crisis has forced society to collaborate on the recovery. This shows the same effort can occur in the fight against climate change, argues Adriano Pires of the Brazilian Center for Infrastructure and Elbia Gannoum from Brazil’s wind energy association

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of FORESIGHT Climate & Energy


Lessons of past crises show how the energy system will change in the future

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to face a valuable paradox: humanity has had to accept its limits and humbly acknowledge that we are a vulnerable species while, at the same time, working together to find a way out through knowledge and research. If we can take lessons from this difficult period, we will come out of this crisis better prepared and more aware of how to face another, bigger problem threatening our planet, which we can no longer ignore: global warming.

Analysts have asked if the fall in the oil price caused by the pandemic, might change the direction of energy transition. We don’t think so. The fall of oil prices in recent years was magnified by the Covid-19 pandemic as demand plummeted, but it is good to remember the oil industry lives on cycles. We believe we will see an adjustment in supply in the medium term and a recovery in prices.

What will happen to investments in renewables as a result? The answer lies in the past. In the late 1970s, after two oil crises, non-oil producing countries invested in renewable technologies and resources seeking to reduce dependence on oil and to strengthen energy security. In Brazil, this resulted in the Proálcool biofuel programme.

In the 1980s, Denmark and Germany advanced in the development of wind and solar technologies and opened up a new world of possibilities. More than three decades after initial investments, the technological improvements have turned renewable energies into competitive sources of power generation across the world. As a result, there is major competition for affordable renewable energy projects and after Covid-19 has subsided, investors will prioritise projects that bring a better quality of life — with renewables firmly in their sights.

 

 

CLIMATE FIGHT

The pandemic has opened our eyes to the unavoidable fight against global warming. And in this fight, low-carbon sources are our best bet. We believe the momentum for the energy transition will be stronger than before the pandemic and it is here to stay. Naturally, in the short term, the speed of the transition could decrease, due to the drop in demand, however in the medium- and long-term its trajectory will accelerate.

Renewables are the obvious choice as the energy carrier of the future and for the fight against global warming. The positive social and economic impact will be fundamental to a post-pandemic future. In June, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) launched the “Wind energy: A cornerstone for the recovery of the global economy – Rebuilding better for the future” study. In it, GWEC demonstrates how investment in wind power creates jobs and positive effects for communities and innovation and proposes economic actions in support of renewable energies which contributes to a fair and more sustainable society.

We believe this could also apply to other renewables, such as biomass and solar. In Brazil, the good news is that we have a great diversity of clean sources for energy and the government has already made it clear that the expansion of the electrical matrix will happen with renewables.

The post-pandemic world we encounter will be different. Our hope is that in this new world, we will have learned that we, as human beings, cannot go against nature and its laws, that we have our limits and that we need to learn to live in harmony with the planet. And, having faced our limits in these dark moments, like children who discover that they cannot do everything without consequences, we can mature with humility and modesty and make more sensible choices, leaving a better planet for future generations.


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