Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Covid-19 Implications for Energy: Interview with Alexandre Perra

27th May 2020

ViewsCovid-19

Alexandre Perra is the Executive Director of Innovation, Strategy and Corporate Responsibility of EDF Group and the World Energy Council's Vice Chair for Europe.

In your opinion, what will be the top three long-term implications and structural changes in the energy sector in your region/country as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?

I believe the pandemic will ultimately drive an economic crisis and drop in energy demand that will hurt energy companies and commodity-producing countries, notably oil and gas. We will experience a slump in investments and security of supply risks over the medium to long term, which has created an urgency for climate-centred stimulus plans.

Secondly, the ongoing crisis has shown the importance of mastering certain industries and strategic resources. It has clearly revealed vulnerabilities in supply chains following stay-at-home measures and the need for a long-term strategic vision.

Lastly, I believe that we will see a strong shift toward teleworking across many sectors, and as a result we will see the increasing importance of electricity as it becomes even more vital to healthcare, education and a variety of activities in an increasingly digital world.

What are the lessons that you have learned at this stage of the crisis in your country/region? Any crisis management tips you would like to share with our global community?

It is imperative that we anticipate and manage crises based on scientific expertise, feedback and long-term planning, including research, strategic stockpiles, etc.

Do you expect society, the economy and energy systems to return to business-as-usual quickly or will there be a ‘new normal’ after the crisis is over? If the latter, what will a ‘new normal’ look like?

The shock created by this public health, social and economic crisis makes a return to business-as-usual impossible. A new normal implies a stabilised situation, but we are nowhere near that, having had to contend with the financial crisis of 2008 and now an acceleration of climate events and the Covid-19 crisis. To move toward stabilisation, States will need to be able to act both at the super local (even individual) and super global (globalisation, climate, cybersecurity, etc.) levels. 

What do you expect will be the legacy of Covid-19 and the impact on climate change policies?

We will see greater emphasis on security and also public health, with two possible outcomes:

If economic growth is given priority over climate change, we could have to deal with a climate crisis on top of a public health and social crisis.

Or, on the contrary, efforts could focus on efficiency and stimulating the economy while fighting climate change at the same time, adopting the most efficient public policies in terms of CO2 abatement to help create a virtuous cycle of investment.

What are the societal implications of Covid-19?

This crisis will amplify already growing inequality within countries in terms of health, access to care, exposure to viral risk, loss of income and jobs. As a result, the need to ensure access to affordable energy among the most vulnerable becomes imperative.

The solution will involve innovating to reduce this inequality, organising an effective recovery, addressing security and health needs, and making our modern lives more resilient.

What are the main positive spill-over effects of Covid -19 in your country/region, if any?

The Covid crisis has forced us to rethink how we see and plan for the long term and to consider reindustrialisation when it comes to certain goods and strategic activities, including energy.

In your opinion, could Covid-19 be a pivot point for accelerating energy transition?

It’s possible, but not certain, as people will become more aware of how environmental factors have contributed to the virus’s spread and more concerned about a crisis within the crisis if extreme weather - heatwaves, drought, typhoons - compounds public health problems. Moreover, plummeting demand for fossil energies could cause certain facilities to shut down and not reopen in the future, thus reducing emissions. Lastly, environmental efforts could be stepped up as more people factor local pollution into public health decisions.

How can we emerge from the Covid-19 shock as a more resilient society and continue to accelerate the pace of successful energy transition?

We can accomplish this by promoting decarbonisation with public policies that are fair, boost the resilience of supply chains and are truly efficient, with CO2 cost-benefit analyses factored into their design and implementation. We will also require global cooperation, which will be put to the test when it comes to research - a major component of the Covid response with vaccines, treatments, etc. - and be necessary to tackle other global challenges.

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