Covid-19 Crisis: Renewables Can Help to Unburden Health Care Systems and Restart Economies

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Work­er clean­ing solar pan­els. © Den­nis Schroed­er / CC BY NCND 2

Economies around the world have been severe­ly affect­ed by the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic. Sub­stan­tial polit­i­cal efforts will be need­ed to sta­bi­lize employ­ment mar­kets and relieve pres­sure on health sys­tems. Renew­able ener­gy gen­er­a­tion can pro­vide impor­tant stim­uli for efforts to achieve these goals.

The Covid-19 pan­dem­ic is affect­ing mil­lions of fam­i­lies and work­ers as wellas busi­ness­es, economies and nation­al health sys­tems. Mea­sures to help cush­ion the effects of this cri­sis should be a top pri­or­i­ty for pol­i­cy-mak­ers, and renew­able ener­gies have a key role to play here by cre­at­ing employ­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties, reliev­ing the bur­den on health sys­tems by reduc­ing costs in the health sec­tor, and reduc­ing the inci­dence of res­pi­ra­to­ry ill­ness­es caused by air pol­lu­tion.

The Paris Cli­mate Agree­ment and the Unit­ed Nations 2030 Agen­da for Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment offer impor­tant, inter­na­tion­al­ly agreed frame­works for a green recov­ery aimed at ensur­ing eco­nom­ic recov­ery in the short­er term, and build­ing resilient economies and health sys­tems in the long run. Such an approach would tap into the mutu­al­ly rein­forc­ing strengths of mea­sures intend­ed to fos­ter eco­nom­ic recov­ery in the wake of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic and mit­i­gate the future impacts of the cli­mate cri­sis.

How renewables can unburden the health care system in South Africa

Our lat­est fact­sheet high­lights the poten­tial of renew­ables. For exam­ple: By expand­ing its renew­able ener­gy sec­tor, South Africa could reduce health costs relat­ed to air pol­lu­tion from coal fired pow­er plants from USD 2.3 bil­lion today to around USD 270 – 980 mil­lion by 2030. An expan­sion of the coun­try’s renew­able ener­gy sec­tor would also improve air qual­i­ty and there­by reduce the num­ber of pre­ma­ture deaths result­ing from res­pi­ra­to­ry ill­ness­es attrib­uted to air pol­lu­tion. In addi­tion, invest­ments in solar ener­gy could deliv­er sav­ings to South African house­holds of up to to USD 700 mil­lion annu­al­ly.

The wide­spread adop­tion of renew­able ener­gy sys­tems in Mex­i­co could gen­er­ate an esti­mat­ed 1.8 mil­lion employ­ment years by 2030. Renew­able ener­gy and gains in ener­gy effi­cien­cy would also help small busi­ness­es and house­holds to save mon­ey, enabling them to bet­ter cope with future finan­cial crises. Pub­lic hos­pi­tals and schools in Mex­i­co could make annu­al sav­ings of to USD 115 mil­lion and USD 105 mil­lion respec­tive­ly as a result of such mea­sures.

Renewables create more jobs than fossil fuels

Renew­able ener­gy can help to increase resilience to future crises. Air pol­lu­tion is a risk fac­tor for many ill­ness­es. Res­pi­ra­to­ry dis­eases such as asth­ma are sus­pect­ed of increas­ing the risk of patients expe­ri­enc­ing more severe symp­toms if they become ill with Covid-19 or sim­i­lar ill­ness­es. Decar­boniz­ing the ener­gy sec­tor could sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce air pol­lu­tion. In the case of Turkey, this could reduce the num­ber of chil­dren under the age of 14 suf­fer­ing from asth­ma by almost one mil­lion cas­es by 2028.

The fact­sheet high­lights the poten­tials of renew­ables in Turkey, South Africa, Viet­nam, India and Mex­i­co. The fig­ures pre­sent­ed here are drawn from stud­ies con­duct­ed in 2019 and 2020 and reveal the co-ben­e­fits that pol­i­cy­mak­ers could achieve for their coun­tries through to 2030 by tak­ing the nec­es­sary deci­sions to “build back bet­ter”.

Down­load the fact­sheet: REviv­ing nation­al economies & health sys­tems fol­low­ing the COVID-19 Pan­dem­ic