Sustainable Energy

Coronavirus crisis to hit renewable energy installations this year, but IEA praises sector's 'resilience'

Key Points
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the renewable energy sector in a number of ways.
  • Supply chains have been disrupted and some factories have had to close their doors. 
Wind turbines as seen from Crosby Beach, in the north west of England.
William Ian Moran | Moment | Getty Images

Renewable installations are set to fall this year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday.

The IEA's Renewable Market Update report projects that 167 gigawatts (GW) of renewable capacity will be added in 2020, a 13% drop compared to the rise in 2019 and the first decline in the growth rate in 20 years.

In its report, the IEA said that the drop reflected "delays in construction activity due to supply chain disruption, lockdown measures and social-distancing guidelines" as well as what it described as "emerging financial challenges."

While new additions are set to drop this year, overall worldwide renewable capacity is still set to increase by 6%, according to the agency.

Looking further ahead, the IEA noted that 2021 was forecast to see renewable power additions bounce back to 2019 levels. Combined growth for 2020 and 2021 is still, however, seen as being nearly 10% lower than previous forecasts made before the Covid-19 pandemic.   

"The resilience of renewable electricity to the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis is good news but cannot be taken for granted," Fatih Birol, the IEA's executive director, said in a statement.

Birol noted that although countries were still building new wind turbines and solar plants, this was happening at "a much slower pace."

"Even before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, the world needed to significantly accelerate the deployment of renewables to have a chance of meeting its energy and climate goals," he added.

"Amid today's extraordinary health and economic challenges, governments must not lose sight of the essential task of stepping up clean energy transitions to enable us to emerge from the crisis on a secure and sustainable path."

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the renewable energy sector in a number of ways, disrupting supply chains and forcing some facilities to close their doors. 

Earlier this week, the Solar Energy Industries Association said that, as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, the solar industry in the U.S. had cut 65,000 jobs since the end of February.

Looking at the bigger picture, the U.S. "clean energy" sector was hit by 447,208 new unemployment filings last month, according to recent analysis of Department of Labor data.

The analysis — released last Wednesday by Environmental Entrepreneurs, the American Council on Renewable Energy, E4TheFuture, and BW Research Partnership — showed that clean energy job losses in April were far greater than March, when 147,139 claims were made.

Total claims for March and April amounted to 594,347, or 17.8% of the sector's workforce. For the purposes of the analysis, the term "clean energy" encompasses a range of areas: energy efficiency; renewables; grid and storage; and "clean" vehicles and fuels.