Bouncing Forward Sustainably: Pathways to a post-COVID world. Sustainable Energy

Zakeri B, Barreto-Gomez L, Gomez Echeverri L, Gielen D, Ghoneim R, Paulavets K, & Rogelj J ORCID: (2020). Bouncing Forward Sustainably: Pathways to a post-COVID world. Sustainable Energy. IIASA-ISC

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Project: IIASA-ISC Consultative Science Platform, Bouncing Forward Sustainably: Pathways to a post-COVID World


The immediate impact of the pandemic on the energy sector. The global lockdown due to COVID-19 has reduced industrial activities, construction, tourism, material demand, and mobility. This has impacted many sectors of the global economy including the energy sector which has witnessed movements both towards and away from sustainability. Key trends observed include a reduced demand for both energy and energy services, zero to negative oil prices, disruptions in the supply chain of energy technologies and materials – specially for renewable energy, and a decline in investments. This has led to welcome reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, revealed opportunities for new and digitalized business models and responsible lifestyle choices, but all these will be short lived if we go back to business as usual.

Such behavioral and societal changes have revealed the potential for structural change and transitions in demand for energy services towards sustainability. An interesting revelation is that the positive fallouts for sustainable development are all related to what are commonly perceived to be difficult-to-overcome barriers such as lifestyle choices, behavior, and business models. Whereas the negative fallouts for sustainable development are the relatively easier to address issues of reinstating supply chains and kick-starting/accelerating investments in sustainable energy. As the world looks to recover from the economic and jobs related consequences of the pandemic, all stakeholders have a responsibility to ensure that we create a system of incentives to reward sustainable behavior while penalizing those actions that would take us back to the path of unsustainability. For the energy sector, this would translate not only to the choices that influence the supply of energy, including evaluating the balance of centralized and decentralized energy options, but also the choices that would impact the demand for energy itself! Re-examining these business models from the point of view of contributions to economic growth and jobs, while building on heightened awareness and a desire for green growth is the imperative.

The way forward:

The economic downtime due to COVID-19 and resultant budgetary constraints have raised concerns on the long-term impact of the pandemic on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate efforts. Stimulus packages are being implemented to recover economic growth and jobs – these may not necessarily coexist with combatting climate change or building resilient societies unless a “new normal” will be embedded in the design and implementation of such stimulus packages.

Ensuring that we recover in a more sustainable manner, building on hard-earned insights into transformative change potential and opportunities for alternative development pathways from the COVID-19 response will require us to:
i. Further expound on new and innovative job-creating, economic opportunities that are compatible with sustainable energy goals, as for example the provision of mobility services or meeting demands for shared workspaces and shared vehicles
ii. Build confidence in the ability and agility of a re-designed energy system to respond to evolving and dynamic demand patterns
iii. Empower society at large to meet their socio-economic obligations and consumption needs with minimum carbon and environmental footprint

Item Type: Other
Uncontrolled Keywords: COVID-19
Research Programs: Energy (ENE)
Transitions to New Technologies (TNT)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2020 08:08
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2020 07:10

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