Covid-19 and energy efficiency developments

When the pandemic ends, energy efficiency improvements will be more important than ever.

The effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on economies worldwide has been immense and the energy sector has suffered momentous setbacks. Back in June 2020, an article by the IEA (International Energy Agency) opened with the words: “The Covid-19 pandemic is having a major impact on energy systems around the world, curbing investments and threatening to slow the expansion of key clean energy technologies.”

Titled “The Impact of the Covid-19 Crisis on Clean Energy,” the article dealt with what the authors saw as the ten key emerging trends resulting from the pandemic which related to sustainability and energy usage. The IEA explained that prior to the pandemic, energy efficiency initiatives globally had not met the necessary targets, and that the situation had worsened amid the Covid-19 crisis.

The article continued by stating: “In this environment, policies to incentivise building, technology and infrastructure upgrades across different parts of the economy are crucial and can benefit efficiency, jobs and economies. Maintaining and strengthening standards for appliances, building equipment and vehicles will be important over the long term to sustain jobs and efficiency improvements.”

Furthermore, the authors of a recent contribution to National Geographic Magazine warned against the assumption that Covid-19 lockdowns could have a significant impact on carbon emissions reduction. “Global emissions were projected to peak in 2024, but COVID-19 could accelerate the process. This year’s decline might herald an earlier transition to falling CO2 levels. Reflecting no structural changes, however, 2020 lockdown-driven declines are unstable and temporary. Looking forward, keeping global warming below 2°C above pre-industrial levels is achievable, but would require immediate, drastic emissions cuts, sustained year after year for decades, until net emissions are zero.”

Economic and environmental gains

The quest for energy efficiency in appliances, covering a wide range of products, is what drove the ErP (Energy-related Products) Directive, which this blog was set up to comment about, particularly in relation to the HVAC industry. However, as the IEA indicated, energy efficiency improvements are required over a range of sectors and HVAC in industrial and commercial buildings must be a key priority.

However, as we said in our blog entry on energy efficiency at the beginning of this year: “The difference between moves towards energy efficiency and many other measures to curb carbon emissions is that there can be economic benefits that frequently come about in a relatively short period of time.”

For industrial and commercial buildings, the installation or retrofitting of an energy-efficient heating system can achieve significant reductions in operating costs as well as delivering environmental benefits. For instance, it has been continually demonstrated that installing a system of Schwank gas-fired infrared radiant plaque or tube heaters can offer a rapid return on investment for the owners and managers of these premises.

Commenting on their study about rebuilding the UK economy post Covid-19, Energy UK explained that: “The report states that an ambitious national programme to retrofit housing with energy efficiency measures, alongside the continuing installation of smart meters, would quickly create long term employment while cutting bills by hundreds of pounds for customers and reducing emissions.”

Energy efficiency improvements in residential and non-residential buildings can benefit the national economy, the environment and the finances of energy consumers. When we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, these factors will become ever more important.