5 minute read 23 Jul 2021
Wind turbines against sunset

A clean COVID-19 pandemic recovery: the global opportunity

By Serge Colle

EY Global Energy & Resources Industry Market Leader; Global Power & Utilities Sector Leader

Global energy advisor. Connecting clients with EY insights, services, assets and the broader energy ecosystem.

5 minute read 23 Jul 2021

A new study uncovers 13,000 “shovel- ready” global renewable energy projects that could reduce emissions while boosting economic recovery.

In brief
  • Ready-to-go renewable energy projects can provide emissions reduction, jobs and economic growth. 
  • These are investable projects, with 90% of total investment available from the private sector.
  • With the right policy levers, areas in most need of jobs and growth can be winners in the green recovery.

Renewable energy presents governments with a “no regrets” path to economic recovery, delivering emissions reduction, jobs and economic growth.1 Moreover, by pulling on key policy levers, countries can unlock private sector investment contributing over 90% of the total investment opportunity or US$2t.

In the research commissioned by the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the EY energy team has analyzed the investible pipeline of energy and resources opportunities across 47 key economies capable of supporting green recovery plans. Working with a wide range of sources, including the EY proprietary Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI) database, and consulting investors, developers, think-tanks and industry experts, projects in four renewable energy sub-sectors – offshore wind, inshore wind, solar and hydro – have been identified. The research focuses on projects that are shovel-ready or capable of launch in the near term.

Mapping the potential impact of identifiable projects in 47 economies that together comprise around 88% of global GDP isn’t a prediction of renewables deployment, but it describes what could be achieved if concerted action is taken now. International co-operation and private-public sector collaboration can together ignite a global green recovery. It can also regenerate depressed communities hit by legacy industries in developed economies and help developing economies build essential infrastructure and clean energy generation for the future.

What does a green recovery mean for climate change?

Deploying the visible pipeline of investable projects over a period of three years would more than double the current rate of global renewables deployment, providing 1 terawatt (TW) of renewable generation capacity. In some countries, the visible project pipeline alone is enough to realize existing nationally determined contribution (NDC) targets under the Paris Agreement. For the 47 countries included in the study, the visible project pipeline will deliver 22% of the UNFCCC NDC (the Paris Agreement) emissions reduction target for 2030.

Beyond direct emissions abatement, decarbonizing the power sector through renewable energy lays the foundation for reducing emissions in the rest of the economy through electrification. Deployment of good-to-go projects would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.5 giga tonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2e) annually, helping to close 9% of the global emissions reduction target for 2030 set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to limit global warming below 1.5°C. This highlights both the opportunity presented by the visible project pipeline and the scale of additional action required to meet IPCC’s global targets.

What does a green recovery mean for jobs?

The visible project pipeline could create up to 10 million jobs, both counting jobs local to the projects, and jobs in the supply chain. Within countries, renewable energy can be particularly effective as a tool for creating employment opportunities outside of urban economic centers, especially when deliberate effort is put into strengthening local supply chains. One example of the impact this can have is in the Humber region of the UK. Established as a cluster for offshore wind power to reverse a long period of economic decline, the region is now home to six operational offshore windfarms (including the world’s largest – Hornsea One), and is a central plank in providing the UK government’s commitment of 40GW offshore energy capacity by 2030. The deployment has led to a 60% drop in local unemployment claimants.

It is sometimes argued that green energy jobs are focused on highly educated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates, but this is not borne out by analysis. In reality, lower skilled jobs are created through construction, installation and manufacturing, while there are new skilled employment opportunities in, for example, engineering and project management.

Moreover, deployment of off-grid and behind-the-meter projects can greatly exceed the visible pipeline. In Vietnam, rooftop solar capacity installed from 2019-2020 exceeded the visible four-year solar PV pipeline in 2018 by almost 100%. Installations in rooftop solar PV capacity in Vietnam have increased by 2,435% since the beginning of 2019, driven largely by a feed-in-tariff scheme. In December 2020, the feed-in-tariff scheme concluded leading to an increase in installed solar rooftop capacity by 6.7GW in that month alone.

Renewable energy investment does more than create jobs: it creates employment opportunities in some of the regions of the world where the need is greatest and where the alternatives are lacking.

Job creation potential per million population chart 1

What does a green recovery mean for economic growth?

As has been well-documented,1 GDP across the world declined in 2020 due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The total investment opportunity could mitigate or reverse a substantial proportion of the over US$2.2t in economic losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic across the countries included in the study and lay the foundation for sustainable economic growth driven by abundant, low-cost, renewable energy. The pipeline of shovel-ready projects could provide an injection of more than US$1.9t into the global economy over a three-year period, accounting for some 85% of the GDP lost in 2020.2 Furthermore, by deploying the pipeline, we estimate a permanent recurring GDP contribution of £60b resulting from operation of the assets.

While the size of the opportunity varies country to country, the median size of the investment pipeline is equivalent to 28% of that economy’s 2020 GDP loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic.3

The existing pipeline of investable projects can enable a green recovery to begin immediately, and the reliance on the public purse is minimal. Recent examples of successful renewables policy show that with the right policy frameworks in place, between 90% and 99% of the required investment for accelerated renewables deployment can be provided by the private sector.4 The visible pipeline also includes several transformational infrastructure projects that can have a country- or region-wide impact in enabling and accelerating further investment.

In the global north,5 the economic regeneration opportunity can also help lift “rust belt” communities hit by declines in legacy industries out of depression, while in the global south, the economic opportunity accelerates development and growth in clean energy and builds important infrastructure, laying the foundations for sustainable development.

Six actions to unlock the green energy pipeline

  • Governments should consider establishing challenging national targets with clear accountability and commitment that could deliver confidence to investors and the private sector.
  • Governments and regulatory bodies should consider creating a clear pro-renewables regulatory environment that may provide a supportive market framework.
  • Domestic financial institutions should evaluate making capital available to a wide range of developers, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
  • International financial institutions may provide access to funding directly or via loans at attractive rates to developers, including SMEs.
  • Land allocation and permitting should be freed up to be simple, fast and low-cost, so that suitable land for renewable energy projects may be deployed.
  • Transmission infrastructure that provides broad national and cross-border interconnection that supports supply-demand balance, liberalized regulation enabling private providers to connect to the grid, expanding the network.
  • Show article references#Hide article references

    1. EY-Parthenon research, June 2021
    2. Source: Oxford Economics, June 2021
    3. Source: Oxford Economics, EY-Parthenon analysis, June 2021
    4. Source: EY-Parthenon analysis, June 2021
    5. Source: EY-Parthenon analysis, June 2021
    6. The group of countries that are in Europe, North America, and the developed parts of Asia

Summary

In the research commissioned by the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the EY energy team has analyzed the investible pipeline of energy and resources opportunities across 47 key economies capable of supporting green recovery plans. The research suggests that renewable energy presents governments with a “no-regrets” path to economic recovery, that could provide a step change in emissions reduction, 10 million jobs and some US$1.9t in economic growth. Moreover, by pulling on key policy levers, countries can unlock private sector investment contributing over 90% of the total investment opportunity, catalyzing growth with minimal input from public resources.

About this article

By Serge Colle

EY Global Energy & Resources Industry Market Leader; Global Power & Utilities Sector Leader

Global energy advisor. Connecting clients with EY insights, services, assets and the broader energy ecosystem.