Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Charles Donovan
Credit: Imperial College via YouTube

Clean Power

Oil & Epidemics: How A Virus Makes The Case For Renewable Energy

Dr. Charles Donovan of Imperial College in London says economies built on energy from renewable sources will be better able to deal with severe disruptions like the coronavirus.

In an interview with Forbes last week, Charles Donovan, executive director of the Center for Climate Finance and Investment at Imperial College Business School in London, laid out the reasons why he thinks building a global economy based on fossil fuels makes the world more vulnerable to market disruptions like the one caused by the coronavirus.

Charles Donovan

Charles Donovan — Image credit: Imperial College via YouTube

“I think we’re entering a whole new phase of volatility,” Donovan said. “These are the unfortunate repercussions of a global market that’s exposed to the volatility of the oil markets and suffers when unforeseeable events like coronavirus arise at the worst time. We are now seeing the downsides of the choices we’ve made about the kind of energy economy that we have.” He suggests that rather than shoveling cubic miles of dollars at energy companies, we should prioritize developing economies that are not coupled to oil and gas.

Donovan maintains that while renewable energy sources such as wind may may appeal to many because of their positive effect on a gathering environmental crisis, it is economic factors that should make them attractive to investors and policymakers.

“There has to be recognition that the increased volatility in the oil markets will stand in stark contrast to what may become the great virtue of renewable energy, which has nothing to do with its greenness, but more about the stability of cash flows from underlying assets. The relative stability of renewable energy that’s fully contracted, that already has power purchase agreements … should make it immune from deterioration.”

Here’s another factor in favor of renewables in Donovan’s view. They are far less likely to be monopolized by cartels (like OPEC) which means they are more difficult to manipulate (or fight wars over). Donovan says monetary policy has an historical bias toward fossil fuels, as happened last week when central banks pumped trillions of dollars into the markets after the OPEC nations failed to agree on new pumping limits, sending oil prices into free fall. That move ultimately failed due to another major shock to financial markets — the coronavirus.

“We’re coming to a very important point now where policymakers can ensure that this round of easing is not hugely biased towards keeping oil producers on a lifeline,” Donovan said. Bailouts could, instead, be structured around a strategy of decarbonization and preparing countries for low-carbon transitions. “To my mind those interventions need to be targeted towards structural investments and things like job retraining for people in industries that can no longer keep going,” Donovan said.

Economies built around more durable, sustainable energy rather than those built on finite, volatile hydrocarbons will be better able to withstand unexpected disruptions such as the one created by the coronavirus, he argues.

“It’s not that by having more wind turbines and solar panels we could avoid coronavirus. But [the world’s major economies] have been like the frog in a pan of water that’s slowing warming up. The fire has just been turned up several notches and the only thing we can do now is jump out of the pan. This is about building an energy infrastructure that creates resilience.”

War, pestilence, polluted ground water, festering skies, oil spills, railway fires, pipeline leaks — all of them can be eliminated by building economies on renewables. So why aren’t we doing so? Because the fossil fuel companies have bought and paid for national governments for 100 years. So there’s always the possibility that abundant renewable energy would lower the incidence of corruption at the local, state, and federal level thanks to fewer fossil fuel lobbyists throwing campaign cash around. Could that really happen? It might be interesting to find out.

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


You May Also Like

Clean Power

The silicon wafer NexWafe says buh-bye kerf, hello low-cost, lightweight, flexible solar cells.


Hyundai is reclaiming the Cybertruck look with a new hybrid fuel cell version of its iconic 1974 Pony Coupe Concept car.

Clean Power

The Canadian startup XlynX aims to improve perovskite solar cells with a new advanced adhesive.


The future of all ground transportation and an awful lot of aviation and marine shipping being electric, low-carbon, quieter, and a lot less smelly...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.