The coronavirus has unleashed the greatest global disruption in generations. The pandemic represents a deep and enduring human crisis, with reverberating impact on lives and livelihoods across the entire world. Coping with the crisis reminds us of the critical role that energy plays in our daily life and in our response to hardship. Reliable energy services lie at the core of preventing and fighting COVID-19 by powering healthcare facilities, supplying clean water for essential hygiene, and providing sufficient refrigeration for the maintenance of food and medicine. These services are also critical to power the digital infrastructure needed to fight the spread of the pandemic, cope with social distancing measures and ensure service continuity for the government and essential businesses. While many of us rely on access to electricity to connect virtually and continue to work, such access and options are not available in many parts of the world; nearly 790 million people live without access to electricity, mostly in Africa and South Asia. The interconnected nature of an effective health response explains our interest in a well-functioning energy sector and reliable access in even the most remote corners of the world.
In addition to its visceral impact on health and survival, the pandemic is also a historic political and economic turning point. COVID-19 severely impacts the energy landscape by causing supply and demand shocks across the sector, rattling commodity markets and threatening the viability of public utilities and private sector suppliers. Maintaining the sector’s viability will be important during the immediate crisis, but also for economic recovery, building resilience against future shocks and eventually achieving universal access. The policy decisions and investments that are taken in response to the immediate crisis will have a major impact on the trajectory of the energy economy in subsequent decades, particularly in terms of locking in lower-carbon pathways to growth.