The power demand outlook remains quiet as economies are going through deep recessions caused by the pandemic. However, that has not stopped the march for green power. As countries try to contain the viral spread by restricting travel and social interaction, cities have seen all-time lows in air pollution levels and researchers are reporting the sharpest decline in greenhouse gas emissions since records began.
In a report by AZoCleantech.com, Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA) said, “The recent drop in electricity demand fast-forwarded some power systems 10 years into the future, suddenly giving them levels of wind and solar power, they wouldn’t have had otherwise without another decade of investment in renewables.”
In European countries also where offices, factories, bars, restaurants and theatres remained closed, energy use has fallen by an average of 10%. Fossil fuel sources have been the most affected by reduced demand, with coal, for example, becoming the most expensive energy source, while cleaner, renewable sources have become increasingly more affordable. A report from the International Renewable Energy Agency stated that the accelerating investment in renewable energy could drive economic recovery from Covid-19, while simultaneously quadrupling the number of jobs in the sector. Replacing fossil fuels with renewables could also help to reduce carbon emissions from the energy sector by as much as 70% by 2050.
In an earlier interaction with BE, while analysing the ways to keep pollution in check after the lock down, Dr. Punarbasu Chaudhuri, Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science, University of Calcutta told BE, “Reduction of the carbon foot print is the most important. If industries get benefits in the form of tax reductions or in other forms, it will encourage them to keep their carbon emissions in check, At domestic level also, there are various android applications through which the carbon emission can be measures, these should be popularised in order to make people aware.”
Recently, Mukesh Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Industries, said that the reliance industries, operator of the world's largest refining complex, will replace transportation auto fuels with clean electricity and hydrogen as it set a target to become net carbon-zero by 2035.
According to a report by The Economic Times, the company operates 1.36 million barrels per day refineries at Jamnagar in Gujarat and is one of the leading petrochemical manufacturers in the world. In the company’s annual general meeting, Ambani stated, “While Reliance will remain a user of crude oil and natural gas, we are committed to embracing new technologies to convert our carbon dioxide into useful products and chemicals.”
Reliance has technology to convert transportation fuels to valuable petrochemical and material building blocks. Ambani also said that they will replace transportation fuels with clean electricity and hydrogen. He added, “We will combine our strengths in digital, power electronics, advanced materials and electrochemistry to build full-stack electrolyser and fuel cell solutions in India.” He informed that Reliance will build an optimal mix of reliable, clean and affordable energy with hydrogen, wind, solar, fuel cells and battery.
The new energy business based on the principle of carbon recycle and circular economy is a multi-trillion opportunity for India and the world, he said, adding this was also an opportunity to make clean and green energy abundantly available at an affordable price.
However, despite the push on renewable energy sector, the wind and solar sectors have not entirely avoided the impact of Covid-19. According to a report in The Economic Times, ongoing solar projects in India have been halted and developers are concerned about the delays their projects are facing because of the production slowdown in China and the lockdown orders in India. With the solar industry relying on China for around 80% of its requirement of solar supply. Moreover, about 85% of the labour in solar parks are migrants, many of which have returned to their villages and are likely to be away for some time.
Renewable energy construction projects have also been delayed in China and the United States, where wind energy will only be entitled to production subsidies if the plans have been commissioned by the end of the year. However, governments do have the ability to counteract any slowdown in progress by implementing targeted policies that would mean the use of renewables will still grow sustainably.