The International Energy Agency (IEA) says renewables would be the only electricity source to achieve growth in 2020, a year marked by a plunge in energy demand due to the anti-coronavirus measures and falling emissions.
IEA’s latest report, the Global Energy Review, is based on an analysis of more than 100 days of real data so far in 2020. One of its main conclusions is that “the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.”
According to the report, the world can expect a 6% drop in energy demand for 2020, or seven times the decline seen after the 2008 financial crisis. IEA compares the drop in absolute terms to the loss of the entire energy demand of India. In the US, the fall is projected to reach 9%, while in the EU it will be 11%.
Electricity demand this year is set to contract by 5%, the largest drop since the Great Depression in the 1930s. IEA says solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind capacities are on track to help lift the production of renewable power by 5% in 2020, with some help from hydropower plants (HPPs). The report shows that the sources considered low-carbon today -- renewables, hydro and nuclear -- will reach 40% of global power generation in 2020, 6 percentage points more than coal.
Global demand for coal will be down by 8%, while natural gas demand will decline by around 5%, the agency projects. For gas, this will be “the largest recorded year-on-year drop in consumption since natural gas demand developed at scale during the second half of the 20th century.”
The combined share of gas and coal in the world’s power mix is seen to fall by 3 percentage points in 2020 to a level not seen since 2001.
According to the report, the coronavirus pandemic and the economic crisis will help reduce global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions this year by nearly 8%, bringing them to their lowest level since 2010. IEA says this would be the largest decrease in emissions ever recorded -- nearly six times larger than the drop of 400 million tonnes in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis.
“And if the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis is anything to go by, we are likely to soon see a sharp rebound in emissions as economic conditions improve,” commented Fatih Birol, executive director of IEA. “But governments can learn from that experience by putting clean energy technologies – renewables, efficiency, batteries, hydrogen and carbon capture – at the heart of their plans for economic recovery. Investing in those areas can create jobs, make economies more competitive and steer the world towards a more resilient and cleaner energy future.”
The projections in the report are based on assumptions that most countries will ease the lockdowns in the coming months, which should be accompanied by a gradual economic recovery. The actual energy demand this year will dependent a lot on the duration and stringency of the measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19. IEA calculates that a month of worldwide lockdown at early-April levels reduces annual global energy demand by roughly 1.5%.
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