Coronavirus to trigger ‘biggest ever fall’ in energy demand and carbon emissions, experts say

The coronavirus lockdowns in many countries are set to lead to record falls in global energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions this year, experts predict.

Fossil fuel use is expected to decline dramatically, bringing down emissions six times faster than after the 2008 financial crash.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is forecasting renewables will be the only energy source to grow this year as countries shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

Global energy demand could slump by 6% in 2020 due to the restrictions put on homes and industry in what would be the largest contraction in absolute terms on record, according to the IEA.

The watchdog expects a reduction of around 2.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from energy use while most commuting and international travel grinds to a halt.

It expects the rate of annual decline of carbon dioxide emissions to be a historic 8% – twice as large as all previous declines since the end of World War Two combined.

Demand for energy sources are predicted to fall:

  • Oil – 9%
  • Coal – 8%
  • Natural gas – 5%

But the IEA warned the COVID-19 outbreak will likely follow the path of other crises and see emissions rebound to an even higher level when it is over.

Executive director Dr Faith Birol said the current “staggering” downturn in fossil fuel use is “absolutely nothing to cheer” given the number of deaths and amount of “economic trauma” it has caused.

He cautioned: “We are likely to soon see a sharp rebound in emissions as economic conditions improve.

“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.”

Lockdowns have pushed electricity demand down by 20% or more in some areas, while power consumption levels on weekdays have looked “like those of a pre-crisis Sunday”.

The report where the IEA made its predictions also forecasted global energy demand will fall 6% in 2020, the equivalent of losing the entire demand of India – the world’s third largest energy user.

    And low-carbon power sources including wind, solar, hydro and nuclear are set to extend their lead over the fossil fuel in 2020, to reach 40% of global electricity generation, the report said.

    Last week, oil prices in the US crashed below zero for the first time, given demand for energy has plummeted.

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