COVID-19 linked behavioral shifts, like remote working and reduced commuting, will have a lasting effect on lowering energy use globally, according to a new DNV GL report published Tuesday.
DNV GL's yearly Energy Transition Outlook 2020 report, covering the period through to 2050, states that COVID-19 will reduce global energy demand by 8% this year.
"Although energy demand will pick up again from 2021, it will be from a lower base, and for the remaining years to 2050 annual global energy demand will fluctuate some 6 to 8% lower than our pre-pandemic forecast," the Norwegian international consulting firm said in the report.
It added that the drop-off in demand would influence consumption for all energy sources: oil and coal are most severely impacted, followed by gas, with renewables least affected.
The firm also predicts that in 2030, emissions will be 10% lower than their pre-pandemic forecast, and in 2050, global energy-related emissions will be at 17 gigatons of equivalent carbon dioxide per year, exactly half the present level.
"The Paris Agreement however requires that level of reduction in emissions to be achieved 20 years earlier, in 2030. The pandemic has thus brought into stark relief the enormity of the global decarbonization challenge," it said.
The Norwegian firm stressed that the reductions this year have come at the expense of many lives and livelihoods, and new ways to tackle the emissions challenge need to be found that also address economic inequality.
DNV GL suggested that these solutions might focus on the most energy- and carbon-intensive elements of three main demand sectors – transport, buildings and manufacturing, however, it added that power supply is a separate important sector, but easier to abate.
"The post-COVID-19 stimulus packages may alter the speed of the transition, but at present, they appear to be falling with equal weight on both the fossil and non-fossil sides of the energy mix. Uncertainty, therefore, remains high regarding whether COVID-19 will speed up the energy transition," the firm noted.
DNV GL's Group President and CEO Remi Eriksen was quoted as saying that the world will need to achieve the same percentage of emissions reduction seen in 2020 every year through to 2050 to succeed in reaching the ambitions of the Paris Agreement.
"So, we urgently need to find more sustainable and lasting ways to reduce emissions. Some sub-sectors are well underway, like wind, solar PV and EVs; but we must also urgently tackle those areas, like heavy industry and long-distance transport, where emissions are hard to abate," Eriksen stressed.
By Ebru Sengul Cevrioglu