Renewable energy should be at heart of virus recovery plans: IEA

File: Wind turbines operate close to Grapzow in northern Germany on August 6, 2019.

File: Wind turbines operate close to Grapzow in northern Germany on August 6, 2019.


PARIS - The International Energy Agency (IEA) called on governments to put clean energy at the heart of their coronavirus economic recovery plans, as it forecast the first slowdown in new renewable power installations worldwide in two decades.

The IEA warned that lockdown measures -- which at their peak affected more than half the world’s population -- would have "far-reaching" consequences, as the world grapples with a crisis that has sent energy demand plummeting and threatens a deep economic contraction.

The agency, which had expected 2020 to be a bumper year for green energy, slashed its two-year forecast for growth in renewable capacity by nearly 10 percent.

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While sectors supplying electricity -- solar, wind and hydropower -- would be largely resilient in the crisis, it said, the market for biofuels used mainly in transport would be "radically" altered as global travel is frozen and oil prices plummet.

Many countries have pledged to increase their use of renewables to meet tough climate targets and the IEA urged governments to redouble those efforts as they plan for post-virus economic recovery.   

It cautioned that a predicted reduction in global energy-related CO2 emissions of up to 8 percent in 2020 -- the largest contraction since World War II -- was nothing to celebrate.

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"Putting emissions into a structural decline needed renewables to grow much faster across all sectors even before the COVID-19 crisis," the report said. 

"To regain and exceed the growth rates seen in the years before the pandemic, policymakers need to put clean energy -- including renewables and energy efficiency -- at the centre of recovery efforts."

In its updated forecast, the IEA said that overall demand for renewables is expected to increase this year, bolstered by their use in the electricity sector, where green energy has accounted for record shares of power going into the grid in some countries.

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Experts said the crisis could provide an opportunity for green energy to permanently take the place of highly polluting fossil fuels like coal.  

"We may come out of COVID with emissions going down, since renewables have been able to take more relative space, pushing out some of the worst of fossil fuels," Glen Peters, Research Director, at the Center for International Climate Research told AFP.