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Europe warned about virus impact on clean tech

Governments across Europe should keep clean energy top of mind as they consider measures to protect their economies against a likely recession caused by the coronavirus, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said.

The European Commission is paying close attention to the economic impact of the coronavirus, saying border shutdowns risk disrupting entire product value chains – ranging from automotive to agriculture and food. And this is valid also for wind, solar and energy-saving technologies.

“On renewables, this is definitely one dimension in a very complex situation that we are facing at the moment,” EU Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer told a regular press briefing on Monday (16 March)

But he said it was too early to make recommendations to EU member states at this stage about potential measures to prop up investments in clean technologies.

“We will have to see as events unfold what analysis we can make of the impact on investments in various areas and how we can react,” Mamer said.

Renewables and energy savings are cornerstones of the EU’s climate change strategy and a central element of the bloc’s Green Deal agenda of reaching climate neutrality by 2050.

Over the weekend, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that low oil prices risked delaying investments into clean tech such as wind and solar, in the face of falling oil prices.

“The sharp decline in the oil market may well undermine clean energy transitions by reducing the impetus for energy efficiency policies,” the IEA’s executive director Fatih Birol said in a blog post published over the weekend (14 March).

As governments draw up stimulus plans to counter the economic damage from the coronavirus, they should ensure that clean energy investment “doesn’t get lost amid the flurry of immediate priorities,” Birol said.

“Governments can use the current situation to step up their climate ambitions and launch sustainable stimulus packages focused on clean energy technologies,” he argued, saying solar, wind, hydrogen, batteries and carbon capture (CCUS) “should be a central part of governments’ plans because it will bring the twin benefits of stimulating economies and accelerating clean energy transitions”.

The IEA’s warning isn’t isolated. On Thursday (12 March), BloombergNEF published a report on the likely effects of COVID-19 on renewable power, energy storage, electric vehicles, heating, cooling and the circular economy.

“We are currently more concerned about demand, as policymakers may divert attention away from clean energy to more pressing concerns,” said BloombergNEF in the introduction to the study.