Upheavals In Global Energy In 2020: COVID, Climate Change, & Energy Transitions

April 15, 2021  • Energy and Environment Program

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2020 wasn’t an easy year for the energy sector around the world – nor was it for anyone else. The COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting economic contraction, and drops in energy prices have resulted in hard times for the global energy sector. Global energy investments and demand for oil and gas declined during COVID to unprecedented extents. As a result, a consolidation cycle is underway in oil and gas, and there will likely be an underinvestment cycle as well if the economy rebounds reasonably. Demand and price recovery have already begun, but the resurgence of COVID cases and the prospect of a prolonged pandemic bring great uncertainty to projections of the pace of recovery. It is also unclear whether the pandemic will be a catalyst to a clean energy transition. COVID may be accelerating the fall of coal and the rise of renewables globally, but its impact on the transition depends largely on the policies that governments deploy to respond to the pandemic and its economic effects.