The COVID-19 pandemic represents the biggest shock to the global energy system in more than seven decades, according to the International Energy Agency's (IEA) latest report early Thursday.
The new IEA report, Global Energy Review, includes estimates for how energy consumption and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions trends are likely to evolve over the remainder of 2020.
According to the report, energy demand will fall 6% in 2020 – seven times the decline after the 2008 global financial crisis, which is equivalent to the entire energy demand loss of India, the world’s third-largest energy consumer.
Advanced economies are expected to see the biggest declines, with demand set to fall by 9% in the US and by 11% in the EU, the report projected.
It stressed significant declines in overall electricity demand during COVID-19, with consumption levels and patterns on weekdays "looking like those of a pre-crisis Sunday."
"Full lockdowns have pushed down electricity demand by 20% or more, with lesser impacts from partial lockdowns. Electricity demand is set to decline by 5% in 2020, the largest drop since the Great Depression in the 1930s," it noted.
- Lockdown drives shift towards low-carbon sources
The lockdown measures are driving a major shift towards low-carbon sources of electricity including wind, solar PV, hydropower and nuclear, the IEA report projected.
After overtaking coal for the first time ever in 2019, low-carbon sources are set to extend their lead this year to reach 40% of global electricity generation – 6 percentage points ahead of coal, it said.
Electricity generation from wind and solar PV continues to increase in 2020, lifted by new projects that were completed in 2019 and early 2020.
"Renewables are set to be the only energy source that will grow in 2020, with their share of global electricity generation projected to jump thanks to their priority access to grids and low operating costs," the report explained.
Despite supply chain disruptions that have paused or delayed deployment in several key regions this year, solar PV and wind are on track to help lift renewable electricity generation by 5% in 2020, aided by higher output from hydropower.
The IEA noted that despite the resilience of renewables in electricity generation in 2020, their growth is set to be lower than in previous years.
- Demand for coal and gas to decrease
The trend towards low-carbon sources is affecting demand for electricity from coal and natural gas, with these sources increasingly squeezed between low overall power demand and increasing output from renewables, according to IEA.
As a result, the combined share of gas and coal in the global power mix is set to drop by 3 percentage points in 2020 to a level not seen since 2001.
Coal will be particularly hard hit, with global demand projected to fall by 8% in 2020, the largest decline since the Second World War. Following its 2018 peak, coal-fired power generation is set to fall by more than 10% this year.
After 10 years of uninterrupted growth, natural gas demand is on track to decline by 5% in 2020. This would 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.
Nuclear power is also on track to drop by 3% this year from the all-time high it reached in 2019, the report showed. Global demand for biofuels is set to fall substantially in 2020 as restrictions on transport and travel reduce road transport fuel demand, including demand for blended fuels.
- Energy-related CO2 emissions at lowest level since 2010
One of the major findings of the report was an almost 8% decline in global energy-related CO2 emissions, reaching their lowest level since 2010 mainly due to declines in coal and oil usage and as a result of these trends.
The report stressed that this would be the largest decrease in emissions ever recorded – nearly six times larger than the previous record drop of 400 million tonnes in 2009 that resulted from the global financial crisis.
“Resulting from premature deaths and economic trauma around the world, the historic decline in global emissions is absolutely nothing to cheer,” Fatih Birol, the IEA executive director, was quoted as saying.
“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. 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,” he underlined.
By Ebru Sengul Cevrioglu