The renewable energy industry found a positive impact with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and governments are prioritising renewables as a driver of low-carbon economic growth.
“Beyond climate goals, governments are prioritising renewables as a driver of low-carbon economic growth in recognition of the numerous employment opportunities created by the transition to renewables.”
“Renewables deliver on all main pillars of sustainable development – environmental, economic and social. As the global energy transformation gains momentum, this employment dimension reinforces the social aspect of sustainable development and provides yet another reason for countries to commit to renewables,” says Francesco La Camera, Director-General of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
One area that has shown encouraging growth during COVID-19 has been to support the ongoing energy transition. As factories and offices shut down, air and noise pollution has also reduced resulting in cleaner air and a more peaceful environment with clearer skies as reported by citizens all over the world.
This means energy ecosystem operators can enjoy greater support in adopting the necessary measures to enable this transition. The right investment can also unlock substantial employment opportunities.
That makes it a significant part of both economic opportunity, as well as a fundamental part of modern infrastructure and a step towards future-proofing our world towards a sustainable environment.
The IEA estimates that as many as three million energy industry jobs have been lost, or at risk during COVID-19. A focused green recovery could change that. With the right investment, a low-carbon pathway following the pandemic could save or create up to nine million jobs, unlocking new opportunities in energy efficiency, manufacturing, and low-carbon transport. This period of volatility could be the pathway to a new, low-carbon, high-skilled jobs future.
Driving Digital Transformation in Energy
At the height of COVID-19’s spread, somewhere between 3-4 billion of the world’s population were in lockdown. That enforced a remarkable transformation in how economies operated.
Digital tools enabled the virtual monitoring of utility assets. Video conferencing allowed experienced engineers to support each other across the world. Now the energy industry is set to reap the benefits of greater digital opportunity thanks to the accelerated adoption of innovations inspired by COVID-19.
The global lockdown also shed light on the importance of embracing new and emerging technologies. Smart meters are one such innovation that has gained greater awareness and significance. During the lockdown, energy customers who had installed smart meters could access their updated electricity bills at any time, any day. Their smart meters eliminated the need for ‘estimated billing’, which analogue meter users had to endure since electricity workers could not physically measure home meters during the lockdown. Combined with the convenience of mobile apps, smart meter customers could access, manage, plan, and pay for their energy usage accurately.
Across Southeast Asia, energy companies have been moving to respond to the current crisis, donating funds, cutting bills, and working to ensure consumers can continue to afford their basic energy needs.
Malaysian utility Tenaga Nasional Berhad pledged almost RM28 million to tackle COVID-19 along with thousands of ringgit worth of PPE, while national energy company PETRONAS leveraged the technical expertise of its Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS Formula One Team to develop respiratory devices to assist COVID-19 treatment.
This period of adversity has created challenges across all industries, but it’s also highlighted the deep commitment of the energy industry to supporting society. This industry has long been a foundation of economic and social opportunity, and COVID-19 has shown how it continues to support the planet and citizens around the world.