Record decline in carbon emissions due to coronavirus

James Marshall
May 2, 2020

"The result of such a scenario is that energy demand contracts by 6%, the largest in 70 years in percentage terms and the largest ever in absolute terms".

The biggest victor from the lockdown measures is the renewables sector.

"The COVID-19 pandemic represents the biggest shock to the global energy system in more than seven decades, with the drop in demand this year set to dwarf the impact of the 2008 financial crisis", the IEA says. Global carbon dioxide emissions are expected to decline by nearly 8% compared with 2019.

It would be more than six times the drop in emissions seen in 2009 as a result of the financial crisis, and nearly twice as large as all previous declines since the end of the Second World War combined.

It notes electricity demand around the world has been significantly reduced as a result of lockdown measures, with knock-on effects on the power mix - in areas it has fallen by as much as 20%, with closures in commercial and industrial operations outweighing increases in domestic demand as more people stay at home.

However, the drop in global demand has allowed for renewables to take on a larger share of the generation mix, with the United Kingdom breaking its coal-free record earlier this week due to a combination of low demand and high levels of renewables, notably solar. For instance, the IEA found that each month of worldwide lockdown at the levels seen in early April reduces annual global energy demand by about 1.5%.

Coal, oil, and gas have taken a particularly deep plunge - combined, taking a 3% dip in 2020.

Using the data from the first 100 days of the year, the report estimates how energy consumption and carbon emissions are likely to evolve over 2020 as the world battles the pandemic and recovers from its economic fallout.

Global electricity demand is on track to drop 5% over 2020, eight times the reduction seen in 2009 as a result of the financial crisis.

In fact, renewables will be the only energy source to grow in 2020, the IEA predicted, due to a number of large-scale projects coming online in later 2019 and early 2020, as well as the technology type being given priority access to grids in most markets and the low operating costs.

In the first quarter of 2020 global energy demand fell by 3.8%.

IEA Executive Director, Dr. Fatih Birol, describes the numbers as a "historic shock to the entire energy world".

"The plunge in demand for almost all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas".

It's too early to determine the long term impact of the crisis on the energy sector, Mr Birol said at the launch of agency's Global Energy Review.

"In recent weeks there have been robust promises from national leaders and calls from businesses for post-coronavirus stimulus packages to accelerate the clean energy transition", Black said.

World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising said: "The IEA report is right to conclude that a coordinated policy effort will be needed to harvest its opportunities and lead to a more modern, cleaner and more resilient energy sector for all".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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