Thinking of a Post-COVID-19 Future While in the Present

With the world in its current state, we at Nilar wanted to provide our perspective.

During this spring, it is hard to let a day go by without thinking about the pandemic in some way. It has affected business to business interactions as well as relations between countries. According to the International Labour Organization, it has affected the livelihood of more than 80% of the global workforce with 1.3 million people knowingly infected worldwide. With all that is going on, it is difficult to think beyond the current problems. Though the current reality is grim, there are multiple groups from different countries working directly on the virus. Therefore, the best course of action for a company like ours is to be forward thinking.

Overall the energy industry as a whole has taken a hit. Oil has been the most heavily impacted. Demand is so low due to the vast reduction in fuel consumption that the industry is losing money in barrel production. Though the end-use consumers are seeing a substantial reduction in prices at the pump, the entire supply chain of oil refining, transport and storage may grind to a halt. This shift in oil markets actually directly affects natural gas since there are long-term gas supply contracts with links between the two commodities. The pricing implications causes issues for gas suppliers as well. Cost reductions in these markets lead to immediate decisions on where to invest during an economic decline. It can be hard to advocate for a transition to renewables when there is an overall economic crisis and the other sources of fuel are currently very cost effective. For the general consumer, there is uncertainty in their current income or no income at all that can make these types of purchases seem low priority, which has slowed the energy transition.

The interesting side effect of the world essentially locking down is the visualization of pollution reduction. Those actively pursuing a greener world can use this period as a case study to directly illustrate the cause and effect of shifting away from certain industrial processes. A study performed by IQAir has found a significant reduction in air pollution around the world due to the lockdowns and isolation of a majority of the global population. The analysis involves a review of a particular microscopic pollutant measured with the air over time. The study focused on ten major cities around the world within a three-week timeframe of the strictest part of the lockdown for that area. Overall, within these cities, there was up to a 60% reduction in this particulate relative to previous years. Although data like this is compelling, it is even more extraordinary to visually see the pollution reduction. Insider, a global news and lifestyle publication, compiled photographs from various sources of different cities that improved in a short period of time. Here are two example sets of photos from Insider that are astounding in their changes in such a short timeframe.

Pollution reduction on this scale can only mean forward thinking in the energy transition. There is now physical proof that can be referenced when discussing the possibilities. In general, many areas around the world are already working towards a phase out of coal. As of last month, there are officially three countries within Europe that have become coal free through the shutdown of their remaining coal power plants. Many other countries have also pledged to shut down their coal plants within the next 20 years as well. As coal is phased out and renewable energy systems increase, there is a need for a stabilizer for the grid. Coal also served as steady power generation, with the ability to guarantee supply. The intermittency of most renewable sources does lead to an opening for energy storage to shine and fill in these much-needed roles. There is an opportunity here to push sustainable energy sources forward through forward-thinking policies and regulations, which can lead to much-needed job creation.

Here at Nilar, we know that there is going to be a slow ramp up to where the energy industry once was. In reality, things may never return back to “normal”. With all of the environmental improvements seen, the lockdown has been eye-opening on how much can be achieved over a short period of time. It is obvious this major shutdown cannot be sustained and there will be a gradual return of many industrial processes as countries reopen. However, there is an opportunity here to evolve our approach moving forward. It is our belief that we will all come to embrace the new normal. The world of tomorrow can push innovation in data computing and processing to accommodate the prospective shift to remote work environments. This will only benefit the power of automation and control. Supply chains of all categories can be revamped to ensure that the essentials will not be out of reach again. The hope is that this will push industries towards recyclability and a circular economy. Ultimately, we can imagine a renewed spirit in the pursuit of a sustainability, with safety and reliability being key motivators. This will be the time for the energy storage industry to be in the forefront of the energy revolution and for companies to come together with a common goal of accessibility to the masses. We are getting ready…are you?