How has the Covid-19 Pandemic Impacted the Environment and Renewable Energy Industry?
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all areas of our lives, but the effects have been strangely positive on the environment and UK’s renewable energy industries.
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The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Environment
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent national lockdown of the UK arose out of a desperate need to control the spread of the novel Coronavirus disease. Whilst the effects of COVID-19 have been devastating for many industries, there have actually been some benefits for the environment.
During the UK’s first national lockdown, which lasted from March to early July 2020, all forms of travel effectively ceased as the UK Government instructed all residents to stay at home. Whilst global daily emissions dropped around the world, the effect was particularly notable in the UK, which showed a 13% drop in emissions.
One of the most important reasons for this dramatic drop was the huge reduction of public transport use, as this is the biggest source of climate pollution in the UK. The public transport sector contributes around 14% of Britain’s annual emissions and approximately a quarter of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels.
To put the UK figures into context, worldwide CO2 emissions from burning coal, gas and oil for power and transport, manufacturing cement and industrial processes dropped by a record 2.4 billion tonnes. It is therefore without doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has positively impacted the environment, but can the same be said for the renewable energy industry?
The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Renewable Energy Industry
A report by the IEA concluded that, overall, renewable electricity generation has displayed ‘strong resistance according to data on monthly installations, awarded auctions, financing of new projects and equity performance’.
It is true that COVID-19 safety regulations and lockdown restrictions in the first half of 2020 disrupted supply chains and temporarily delayed construction of renewable energy installations. However, since May 2020, renewables-based construction projects and businesses have returned to near-normal levels as project managers and manufacturers have adapted their operations to adhere to new social‑distancing rules. Although, as with most industries, Government support is needed if solar PV installations in particular are to remain ongoing and strong.
In more good news, 2020 saw almost 90% of new electricity generation being renewable, with around 10% being powered by gas and coal. This finding means that renewable energy is on track to become the largest power source by 2025 and will ultimately displace coal – an energy source that has dominated the UK’s electricity generation for the past 50 years.
Whereas the environment has undoubtedly benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic (primarily through the reduction of emissions), the renewable energy industry has faced some obstacles. However, it has ultimately proved its strength, resilience and importance to the national infrastructure of the UK and continues to be appealing to investors and homeowners alike.