Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Workers install a solar PV system.

Workers install a solar PV system. (Photo: Team Massachusetts 4D Home/Flickr/cc)

IEA Projects Demand for Renewable Energy to Surge Post-Pandemic While Fossil Fuels Collapse

"Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use."

Andrea Germanos

A new report Thursday from the International Energy Agency projects a bleak year for fossil fuels but a banner 2020 for renewables as the coronavirus pandemic triggers "the biggest shock to the global energy system in more than seven decades."

"This is a historic shock to the entire energy world," Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director, said in a statement. "Amid today's unparalleled health and economic crises, the plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil, and gas. Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard-of slump in electricity use."

"It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts," he said, "but the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before."

The Paris-based organization estimates in its "Global Energy Review" that—if global economies recover slowly from the impacts of the health crisis—global energy demand will drop by 6% in 2020. Such a decline would bring with it a nearly 8% drop in energy-related carbon emissions, the biggest ever drop in absolute terms in modern history.

"Resulting from premature deaths and economic trauma around the world, the historic decline in global emissions is absolutely nothing to cheer," Birol said, adding, "And if the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis is anything to go by, we are likely to soon see a sharp rebound in emissions as economic conditions improve."

According to the report, Covid-19 contributed to global coal demand dropping in the first three months of year by roughly 8% compared to the same period in 2019. The report also projects global coal demand will drop by about 8% total in 2020. In the U.S. it could drop by 25%.

Oil demand dropped nearly 5% in the first quarter compared to 2019's first quarter. And in 2020, demand could drop by 9%, bringing the yea,   in line with 2012 levels, the report adds.

Natural gas demand also witnessed a drop—it was down 2% in first quarter. It could drop 5% in 2020.

Renewables are a vastly different story.

In the first quarter, demand went up by about 1.5%, and the report estimates that global demand for renewable energy could go up 1% in 2020.

"Renewable energy has so far been the energy source most resilient to Covid‑19 lockdown measures," says the report.

"A faster recovery would have a minimal impact on renewable energy production, though it would enable more new renewables-based projects to be completed," the publication continues. "If recovery is slower, renewable energy would still increase, making renewables the energy source the most resilient to the Covid‑19 current crisis."

Birol, in his statement, urged global governments to put "clean energy technologies—renewables, efficiency, batteries, hydrogen, and carbon capture—at the heart of their plans for economic recovery."

"Investing in those areas can create jobs, make economies more competitive, and steer the world towards a more resilient and cleaner energy future," he said.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Intentional Vandalism' Leaves Thousands Without Power in North Carolina

One right-wing extremist implied that multiple electrical substations were targeted to disrupt a drag show in Moore County. Local law enforcement authorities and the FBI are investigating.

Kenny Stancil ·


GOP Silence on Trump's Call to Axe Constitution Reveals 'Full Embrace of Fascism': House Dem

"Last week the leader of the Republican Party had dinner with a Nazi leader and a man who called Adolf Hitler 'great,'" said Rep. Bill Pascrell. "Yesterday Trump called for throwing out the Constitution and making himself dictator."

Kenny Stancil ·


Protesting Fuel Poverty, People Tell UK Government to 'Keep Everyone Warm This Winter'

As energy bills—and fossil fuel profits—continue to soar, demonstrators around Britain demanded immediate action from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and members of Parliament.

Kenny Stancil ·


'Turn Off the Tap on Plastic,' UN Chief Declares Amid Debate Over New Global Treaty

"Plastics are fossil fuels in another form," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, "and pose a serious threat to human rights, the climate, and biodiversity."

Kenny Stancil ·


EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo