Challenges and opportunities of wind and solar photovoltaic sources in times of war and COVID-19 pandemic
If, in normal times, mitigate climate change to prevent the temperature from rising above 1.5°C by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate action (IPCC, 2018) is a brutal challenge to humankind, imagine now with the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Europe.
The harmful effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the conflict in Ukraine, on the global economy have not yet been adequately sized, but just look at the increases in energy and food prices and the rise in inflation to understand that they exist and should be harmful to the environment, economy, and global society (World Bank, 2022).
The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the war in Europe, have created additional and significant challenges for the low carbon energy transition. Rising energy costs and energy insecurity are driving policies to prioritize economic recovery with an increased share of renewable sources in the energy mix and the energy security (Tian et al., 2022) to achieve the much-desired carbon neutrality and supporting sustainable development.
Renewable sources such as wind and solar were the ones that grew the most in 2021, especially in electricity system, where together they reached a record 10% in the global electricity mix. In 2021, solar generation rose 23%, and wind 14%. Together, all clean electricity sources generated 38% of the world’s electricity in 2021, more than coal (36%). At least, a quarter of the world's countries generate more than 10% of their electricity from these rapid-deployment renewable resources. In 2021, renewable sources generate 71% of electricity in South America (Frankena, 2022).
In Brazil, 84% of the electricity mix is from renewable generation. The share of solar energy in the Brazilian electricity mix increased from 1.4% in 2019 to 6.9% in 2021. Wind energy also recorded growth, reaching almost 11% of share in the Brazilian electricity matrix in 2021 (MME, 2022). Nonetheless, the challenges are huge since wind and solar energy must grow at a rate of 20% a year until 2030 to contribute to the 1.5º global warming goal (Jones, 2022) demanding firm and precise performance of public policies.
Despite the ecological, and socio-economic benefits of wind and solar sources, there are considerable challenges ahead (Tian et al., 2022), especially for developing countries, due to COVID-19 and the war in Europe – revealing how precarious is our energy security – which may reveal additional barriers to the expansion of these two renewable sources. For example, risk of limitations of investments in production, and equipment import restriction (increasing in production costs, shortage of material resources, and harmful effects on foreign exchange) could punish the maintenance of current wind and solar PV farms and erecting barriers to new investments (Costa et al. 2022).
Dominated by the renewable sources (hydropower), Brazil should keep its investment efforts on non-hydro renewables, especially wind and solar sources, to support low carbon energy transition. Therefore, Brazil needs to be aware of sensitive aspects to shed light on better pathways for the expansion of wind and solar PV sources, such as 1) what are the main public policies responsible for the diffusion of wind and solar PV? 2) How important is development of wind and solar PV in the country? 3) What are the main barriers, and opportunities, for the diffusion of wind and solar PV in Brazil? 4) Why does the expansion of wind and solar PV energy occur mainly in northeastern of the country? 5) How important are wind and solar PV to the decarbonization of the electricity sector in Brazil? 6) Could COVID-19 pandemic impact the expansion of wind and solar PV in Brazil? Why?
Costa, E., Teixeira, A. C. R., Costa, S. C. S., & Consoni, F. L. (2022). Influence of public policies on the diffusion of wind and solar PV sources in Brazil and the possible effects of COVID-19. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 162, 112449.
World Bank Group (2022). Response to Global Impacts of the War in Ukraine: A Proposed Roadmap, USA, retrieved in 11/5/2022 on https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/WBG-Response-to-Global-Impacts-of-the-War-in-Ukraine-A-Proposed-Roadmap_0.pdf
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Tian, J., Yu, L., Xue, R., Zhuang, S., & Shan, Y. (2022). Global low-carbon energy transition in the post-COVID-19 era. Applied energy, 307, 118205.
Frankena, G. (2022). Reviving Latin American energy transition needs wind and solar Atradius Regional Economic Outlook – Latin America (2022), Netherlands, retrieved on 11/5/2022 on https://atradius.fr/rapports/atradius-regional-economic-outlook-latam-may-2022-ern220501en.pdf
Jones, D. (2022). Record wind and solar - but also record coal and emissions, EMBER, xxx, retrieved in 12/5/2022 at https://ember-climate.org/insights/research/global-electricity-review-2022/
MME (2021). Setor elétrico brasileiro. Ministerio de Minas e Energia, Brasília, retrieved in 12/5/2022 at https://www.gov.br/mme/pt-br.