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Will renewable energy be impacted by Covid-19?

Matthew Bowles our consultant managing the role
Published on 28 May 2020
In October 2019, when Covid-19 wasn’t even a blip on our radar, the IEA projected that 2020 would be a record-breaking year for renewable energy. There are conflicting messages about what impact the outbreak will have on the industry and that’s to be expected as we still try to make sense of the current situation.

No other event in our lifetime has impacted the globe on the same scale as coronavirus but it’s not all been bad change. Carbon dioxide emissions have plummeted, improving air quality and giving us hope for a greener future. However, this still leaves those working in the renewable energy sector wondering how the industry will be directly impacted by the outbreak.

As we plan for the future it becomes apparent that this unprecedented event has created an opportunity for global economies to rebuild themselves sustainably. Renewable energy companies will be looking to their governments for ‘green stimulus’ packages to allow them to do so. Here’s an overview of how the market looked before the pandemic, how renewable energy is currently being impacted by Covid-19 and what we can do to ensure that the future is green:

Two decades of growth

In the last 20 years, the renewable energy market has experienced impressive year-on-year growth due to an increase in demand for clean energy and a surge in investment. And just last year, IRENA projected that the renewables energy sector would create 17.7 million jobs by the year 2050. The recent outbreak brings into question whether the sector is capable of reaching this projected growth and, more importantly, what we must do to help.

Taking the biggest share of Europe’s electricity market

Over the past several months we’ve seen factories reduce or stop manufacturing altogether, the tourism and aviation industries have been brought to a grinding halt and an unthinkable proportion of the global workforce have traded their daily commute for video conference calls. What effect has this had on the wider energy sector? The IEA show that for every month we spend in lockdown the demand for electricity drops by 20% and it happens to be the sharpest drop the world has seen since World War Two.

However, while the overall demand for energy is falling there is good news for the renewable energy sector. Green energy now boasts a 46% share Europe’s electricity production – a modest 8% increase on the year before. Industry experts are predicting that this response to the pandemic may accelerate Europe’s transition to cleaner energy by up to a decade.

Increased costs for projects

These unprecedented times leave a lot of uncertainty for projects within the renewable energy market. With the production of a Covid-19 vaccine predicted to reach the population next year, many companies in the sector will face increased costs and unique challenges for future projects. The good news is that these disruptions and pressures on the supply chain have shone a light on the brilliant work the sector is doing. While renewable energy companies push through to continue delivering on their plans the recruitment consultants supporting these projects are displaying innovative crisis planning and ensuring that both construction and general activity can continue within the sector.

Projects with key worker status

The disruption to the workforce was a major impact of Covid-19 on the energy-from-waste market, and other subsectors too. However, with energy being classified as an essential sector, thankfully some projects have been granted ‘key worker’ status - allowing hundreds of employees working in renewable energy to continue working during Covid-19. This is especially true for offshore wind construction and as a result, the majority of wind turbine and component factories in Europe have managed to weather the storm and continue production throughout the lockdown.

Rebuilding our economies with green stimulus packages

As companies and governments process the reality of this ‘new normal’ they have switched from risk mitigation to the rebuilding of our economies. Though the outbreak of Covid-19 has sent some ripples through the renewable energy sector it has shown the possibility of transitioning towards a greener future.

Now more than ever, oil and gas companies are seeking opportunities to shift their production to renewables given the hike in demand and the volatile oil market. Dr Charles Donovan, an Executive Director at Imperial College Business School, explains how the pandemic has highlighted the need to stop investments in the oil market and instead shift the focus towards green energy. His view that “this [time] is about building an energy infrastructure that creates resilience.”, emphasises the importance of thinking about the future. Amongst a great deal of uncertainty, it stands true that renewables will remain a strong sector throughout Covid-19 and beyond. 

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Whether you’re actively looking for your next job or are interested in finding out about new opportunities, Quanta are here. Our renewable energy recruitment consultants have the industry knowledge to find the job that’s right for you and the candidate care experience to help you every step of the way. Browse our renewable energy jobs here or submit your CV and we’ll be in touch with job opportunities.