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Can Clean Energy Goals Still Be Met Despite COVID-19?

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Emily Folk's picture
Journalist Conservation Folks

Emily Folk is a conservation and sustainability journalist. She focuses primarily on green technology and the impact changes in technology have on climate change. On her blog, Conservation Folks...

  • Member since 2018
  • 40 items added with 138,887 views
  • Sep 24, 2020

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it seemed the world was on the cusp of a sustainable future. As with many other aspects of life, though, the outbreak cast doubt over the fate of clean energy. With many countries still struggling with the virus, whether they can meet renewable energy goals is uncertain.

On the positive side, pollution has fallen by as much as 50% because of lockdown restrictions. These tangible environmental benefits may convince people to move forward with clean energy adoption. At the same time, if everything goes back to normal as economies reopen, it could reverse any positives.

The future of renewable energy is still uncertain, but this could be its chance to take over. Whether that happens depends on how organizations and authorities will react.

How COVID-19 Has Disrupted Renewable Energy

Renewable energy faced the same challenge most sectors did as the pandemic spread — a lack of money. As restrictions limited what companies could do, and both businesses and individuals lost money, people slowed or stopped spending on renewables. The energy market saw a 39.3% decline in purchasing activity, primarily due to uncertainty over the pandemic.

In the face of the ongoing recession, many businesses and local governments put clean energy initiatives on pause. Even though renewables are more affordable than ever, they still cost money, and many people may not see them as a priority. These economic setbacks may continue to delay the transition into clean energy even after the pandemic.

As the outbreak subsides, many organizations will still find themselves low on funds. They may focus all of their efforts on increasing profitability instead of restarting clean energy initiatives. Even if they plan to transition to renewables eventually, that shift may take longer now than it initially seemed.

An Opportunity for Sustainability

Despite these disruptions, there are some positive signs for clean energy amid the pandemic. Renewables aren't the only part of the energy industry that's struggled, with fossil fuel demand falling in many countries. These energy sources, especially oil, have showcased considerable volatility during the outbreak, making renewables more attractive by comparison.

Clean energy could also serve as a critical step in reopening. The pandemic has highlighted the need for flexibility, and a diversity of energy sources that unlike fossil fuels, will not run out. As local governments start the long road to recovery, pursuing clean energy projects would also help provide jobs in these areas.

After experiencing a lung disease outbreak, the public will likely be more appreciative of clean air. Authorities could highlight the health benefits of reducing emissions to garner support for clean energy initiatives.

The extremities and hardships of the pandemic have also pushed people toward collaborative, community-driven projects. This sense of community could lead to a rise in co-ops, which enable more people to engage in the economy. A surge in energy co-ops could give renewables another boost as the general public, disillusioned with older systems, gains more control.

The world is more aware of people's needs than ever. This awareness could inspire organizations to address the 789 million people who still don't have access to electricity. Renewables would provide a reliable, versatile energy source for them.

COVID Could Push the Energy Sector in the Right Direction

Given economic setbacks, clean energy adoption could slow in the coming months or years. Simultaneously, the need for sustainable energy has never been more apparent, which could help it take off. If people in power see the potential of clean energy in addressing current needs, this could speed the transition to renewable electricity.

The COVID-19 pandemic provides the world with the opportunity to move forward. If authorities and organizations act on this chance, it could be the push that renewables have needed for years.


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