E&E News discusses how lockdowns boost renewables and harm coal.
As coronavirus lockdowns encircled the globe from January to March, stifling economic activity, something surprising happened on the electric grid. Renewable energy had the romp of its short life, while coal withered.
The two trajectories — stunning in their speed and scope, especially in parts of the United States — happened because demand for electricity suddenly evaporated.
As the world wonders how long it will take the economy to recover, the renewables-and-coal phenomenon poses other questions. A long or short recession equals a long or short trough in electricity demand. What energy sources will emerge either healthy or sick? How will the coronavirus crucible change electricity’s carbon emissions?
And what exactly changed when COVID-19 swept the world?
An International Energy Agency report from late April documented the change. In the first quarter of 2020, as China endured its lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus and similar efforts started in Europe and the United States, electricity demand around the globe dropped by a historic 2.6%.