Figures for the impact of Covid-19 on the cleantech sector already make bleak reading and show the path of destruction in its wake. In the US, unemployment data for March 2020 shows every clean energy sector is being impacted by the economic crisis:
- Energy efficiency, the largest clean energy sector, shed around 69,800 jobs
- Renewable electric power generation and alternative transportation shed more than 16,500 and 12,300 jobs respectively
- Clean fuels and clean transmission, distribution, and storage dropped about 3% of their workforce
The International Renewable Energy Agency’s DG, Francesco La Camera, confirmed that the global crisis ignited by the coronavirus outbreak exposed “the deep vulnerabilities of the current system” and urged governments to invest in renewable energy to kick-start economic growth and help meet climate targets. The agency’s landmark report found that accelerating investment in renewable energy would help tackle the climate crisis and would in effect pay for itself.
In particular there are 3 areas that demonstrate the importance of clean energy systems:
- Energy security remains a cornerstone of our economies, especially during turbulent times
- Electricity security and resilient energy systems are more indispensable than ever for modern societies
- Clean energy transitions must be at the centre of economic recovery and stimulus plans
Ignacio Galán, the chairman and CEO of the Spanish renewables giant Iberdrola, which owns Scottish Power, said the company would continue to invest billions in renewable energy as well as electricity networks and batteries to help integrate clean energy in the electricity.
“A green recovery is essential as we emerge from the Covid-19 crisis. The world will benefit economically, environmentally and socially by focusing on clean energy,” he said. “Aligning economic stimulus and policy packages with climate goals is crucial for a long-term viable and healthy economy.”
Francesco La Camera says, “Investing in renewable energy would deliver global GDP gains of $98tn above a business-as-usual scenario by 2050 by returning between $3 and $8 on every dollar invested. It would also quadruple the number of jobs in the sector to 42m over the next 30 years, and measurably improve global health and welfare scores, according to the report.”
Peter S. Goodman, an economics correspondent for The New York Times, concurs and thinks that a deliberate slow walk back to a no-longer-relevant norm isn’t going to do it. Dr Robyn Owen (Middlesex University) and Theresia Harrer, Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP) agree. “History tells us that post-crisis economic reconstruction is most successful where investment is greatest in new emerging sectors. It is crucial, therefore, that investment in the UK is directed towards globally leading innovations for environmentally sustainable development, rather than simply to become more efficient at producing and selling more of the same.
Dr Robyn Owen and Theresia Harrer go on: “We have argued that an essential element of climate change policies is a recognition that investing in early stage SME cleantech innovators is crucial. These are companies developing technologies that lower carbon use and which are key to reaching the ambitious goals of an at least 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions set by the UNFCCC Paris Agreement of 2015.
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