Sustainable Recovery: World Energy Outlook Special Report

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Contributed date

July 20, 2020 - 9:36am

Critical Commentary

This special issue report, co-produced by the International Energy Agency and the International Monetary Fund, outlines the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the energy industry and the potential for this moment to act as a turning point in developing more sustainable and resilient energy systems. Government actions taken to suppress the spread of the virus have resulted in the deepest economic depression since the Great Depression of the 1930's. An estimated 300 million jobs have already been lost. As the pandemic coincided a steep drop in oil prices, the energy sector has been one of the hardest hit industries, expecting to shrink by 20% in 2020.

In the report, the authors argue that, in the COVID-19 moment, "Governments have a once‐in‐a‐lifetime opportunity to shape a better energy future" (IEA 2020, 15). The report also acknowledges the important role played by energy infrastructure during the pandemic so far, underwriting societies' abilities to provide healthcare, to deliver food, water and other essential goods and services, and also enabling the teleconferences and other tele-services required to work and school from home. Thus, the authors argue, investment in this infrastructure should be emphasized to protect its functionality against future challenges, both political-economic and climactic.

The first chapter of the report details the economic impact of COVID-19 on the energy sector. They show that, though initial responses by governments were intended to mitigate the worst of the economic shocks of quarantine, now many governments are beginning to shift gears into planning more long term recovery efforts. Taking the 2008-9 financial crisis as an example, the authors warn that economic recovery efforts often coincide a dramatic uptake in carbon emissions. Thus, in order to preempt similar strategies this time around, the develop a number of recommendations to help the global economy recover "both jobs and growth, as well as an energy system that is cleaner, more secure, resilient and cost-effective" (IEA 2020, 18). Their two over arching development strategies for carbon reduction include focusing on energy efficiency and replacing carbon-intensive energy assets with zero or low-carbon, renewable energy assets.

Chapter two further breaks down these strategies into 30 detailed measures across the following sectors: electricity, transport, buildings, industry, fuels, and technological innovation. Finally, the third and final chapter assesses the possible social, economic, and health benefits that their recommendations might incur, should they be adopted and implemented adequately. 


International Energy Agency. 2020. Sustainable Recovery: World Energy Outlook Special Report. OECD.

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Cite as

International Energy Agency and International Monetary Fund, "Sustainable Recovery: World Energy Outlook Special Report", contributed by James Adams, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 20 July 2020, accessed 16 August 2022.