Analyzing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a report on the demand for electricity during this period. According to the report, the electricity demand dropped drastically with the implementation of the lockdown measures in various countries. While the demand recovered as the lockdown measures were relaxed in these countries, it was still below the pre-lockdown levels in many.
The report says that the electricity demand dropped to Sunday levels during the lockdown period, and the drastic fall in electricity usage was only partially offset by a high residential use.
As the lockdown measures were eased in countries like Germany and Italy in April, the electricity demand showed the first signs of recovery. The trend continued in May as more countries like India, Spain, the U.K., and France eased their lockdown measures.
In June, the electricity demand stayed 10% below the pre-lockdown levels in most countries except India, where the recovery was more pronounced.
According to the report, the electricity demand in China dropped by nearly 10% as compared to the same period last year. But after the confinement measures were eased, the electricity demand showed the first signs of recovery and the demand in May was nearly 4% higher than what it was during the same period a year ago.
The report also points to a significant shift towards renewables following the lockdown measures, and this can be mainly attributed to depressed electricity demand, low operating costs, and priority access to grids. In the United States, natural gas continued to lead the way, with renewables coming second, having outpaced the contribution of coal-based power projects.
In India as well, renewables continued to increase its share in the power mix, and the gap between renewables and coal narrowed down significantly during the lockdown period. The share of coal has stayed significantly under 70% since the first lockdown measures were imposed in the country. In May, the demand for electricity showed signs of recovery, and the rising share of renewables in the energy mix showed seasonal availability. With the increasing temperature in June, the share of coal in the power mix started to increase with the share of wind power started to decrease.
The share of renewable energy (including large hydro) in India’s overall installed power capacity mix rose marginally to 36.2% at the end of the first quarter of 2020, from 35.9% at the end of the calendar year (CY) 2019, according to the data from CEA, and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
In China, renewables maintained a higher share in the power mix after the lockdown measures were eased in the second half of March.
The same was the case with the European Union, which witnessed a significant rise in the share of renewables in the first six months of 2020 as compared to the first half of 2019. The impact of lockdown and the significant increase in production capabilities of renewables drove the demand for non-renewable energy down, with coal and nuclear feeling the pinch.
The report further points out that the share of variable renewables in the power mix is dependent on several factors, which include wind and solar parks in operation, weather conditions, and total demand. In several European countries like Italy, Spain, and Germany, the share of variable renewables has remained high and has reached new heights as lockdown measures were eased.
According to a report published by IEA, until mid-April 2020, countries that were under complete lockdown due to coronavirus experienced a decline of 25% in energy demand per week. Whereas, in countries that were under partial lockdown, the decline was 18% on average. The report focused on global energy demand and the decline in the first quarter of 2020. Further, it said that only renewable energy sources showed growth in demand during the period.
Recently, in an interview with Mercom, Jaideep Mukerji, CEO, Smart Power India, said that power consumption during lockdown plummeted by 70% in rural India as people were cash-strapped and prioritized other essentials like food over power.