Green energy ratchets up power during coronavirus pandemic
22nd July 2020 | Commercial Energy
Renewable power has taken up a record share of global electricity production since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Reuters review of data, suggesting a transition away from polluting fossil fuels could be accelerated in the coming years. Advocates of traditional energy have long argued that clean energy sources, like solar and wind farms, which depend on fickle weather, cannot be trusted to provide steady supplies of electricity into national grids that were designed to operate in tandem with reliable coal and gas generators.
But the past three months have shown that renewable energy has become more dependable, sector experts say, accounting for well over half of output in some European countries, while grid operators proved that could successfully manage large doses of fluctuating energy flows.
“This has been a real test of how resilient the grids are, and we know they coped because the lights stayed on,” said Rory McCarthy, energy storage senior analyst at global consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie. “Maybe this will give confidence to governments and policy makers who were apprehensive, that they can be more ambitious about the number of renewables on the grid.”
However, before governments take decisions based on recent experiences, they will have to answer various questions, says Michelle Manook, chief executive of the World Coal Association, a lobby group for the industry. These include how the system would have coped in the mid of winter, when sunshine is at a premium, or how it will mange when the economy picks up and demand gathers pace.
“What seems little known or understood is that a carbon-free electricity generation system based wholly on renewables … is not currently attainable,” Manook told Reuters. The recent boost for wind and solar power came for all the wrong reasons: the health crisis has tipped the world into recession, pushing down electricity usage by more than a fifth in some countries, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA).
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