The economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to financial uncertainty. Commercial and industrial installations are likely to be negatively affected as voluntary spending may be kept back and preserving short-term cash will become a prime concern. The supply chain disruptions and weaker investment will also lead to delays in projects. These are just some of the impacts of COVID-19 on renewable energy.
However, there is a positive future for the solar energy sector. The market is expected to grow in the medium term as advances in technologies are set to push the cost of renewable energy down. Sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa, are seen to have access to large amounts of sun and wind, giving it a huge potential in the growth of demand in renewable energies.
Wind and solar are the cheapest sources of energy in South Africa. It is estimated that by 2030, solar will be one of the cheapest domestic energy sources in most Sub-Saharan African countries. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is now a focus on large scale investments that will boost the development of the renewable energy sector.
In response to the pandemic, The International Energy Agency (IEA) is working with the African Union Commission to bolster renewable energy supply. However, during this time, there has been the largest decrease in global energy investment. Most of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturers are located in China and the country’s COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions look to disrupt key supply chains of key components. This could result in a slow-down in the roll-out of renewable energy across the globe.
Research is now vital in the impact the pandemic will have on the renewable energy sector. Will there be a regression to traditional fossil fuels due to the economic crisis, or will there be a stronger move to renewables in search for more sustainable energy supplies? Research will be key.
The Energy And Economic Growth (EEG) Applied Research Programme is calling for contribution to this research, with the aim to better understand the implications that COVID-19 will have on the renewable energy markets.