Protests calling for environmentally friendly energy sources have soared in the last decade. Demands for the elimination of physically harmful chemicals and agents have increased during those years. The general public has become increasingly aware of the connection between environmentally harmful practices, and their effects on human health and wellness. Now, an unprecedented event has sparked action in the clean energy movement. The economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have created opportunities for businesses to pivot to clean energy. Undoubtedly positive for the planet, these changes will also benefit overall human health and wellness.
Through global real-time communication methods, people have seen the devastating health effects of the energy business. Images of harmful smog hovering over Los Angeles have left people clutching their chests. Videos of oil spill cleanup crews with neurological and breathing problems have spread globally. Websites dedicated to the countless lives lost in coal mine collapses have served as reminders of the human impact of the energy business. With increased media focus on these harmful effects, an increase in corporate and personal responsibility began to take shape.
Then, the global COVID-19 pandemic rightly pivoted a collective focus on immediate needs. Emergency care, treatment and vaccination needs, and life-or-death matters became the top focus, and sustainability fell out of the headlines. Behind the scenes, power players considered the most effective ways to navigate a global pandemic with environmentalism in mind. They considered ways that clean energy could impact the environment and collective human wellness.
COVID-19, “Dirty” Energy, And Health
According to coverage in The Atlantic, “American coal consumption plunged last year, reaching its lowest level since 1975.” This decline alone was responsible for a subsequent 10% decrease in greenhouse emissions. Responsible for global warming, greenhouse gases also create various wellness-related issues for humans. They contribute to extreme weather conditions, which can impact air quality, availability of water, and disease migration. The World Health Organization reports that global warming caused by greenhouse gases will cause the spread of infectious diseases to various parts of the world. Thus, this recent decrease in coal consumption has many vital impacts. As businesses prepare to move away from coal power in the post-pandemic world, environmental and wellness impacts can be tremendous.
In April, in the midst of pandemic restrictions, the price of crude oil in the country fell to negative $37.63. This marked a sharp decline in the physical demand for oil and the storage capacity for continued oil operations. Chronic crude oil exposure can manifest various health-related concerns, making it a dangerous industry. These include chemical pneumonia, irregular heartbeats, convulsions, and even coma. With a great reduction in travel, there is simply a decline in the need for crude oil. As migratory behaviors continue to evolve, changes create an opportunity for alternative energy sources.
In addition coal and crude oil, there has been a decline in price for plastics, gas, and liquefied natural gas. Some of these industries were seeing negative trends prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the economic effects of the pandemic have forced many energy companies to consider pivoting to clean energy usage. As businesses remain closed, this transitory time is perfect for welcoming evolution and change.
Perks Of Switching To Solar Energy
During this unprecedented time, initiatives have been established to assist companies with the quest to transition to renewable energy. For example, Abu Dhabi saw a record-setting low solar power tariff of merely $13.50 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in May. This marked a 13% decline from the previous world record low. This decrease incentivized businesses to invest in creating solar-powered infrastructure. China, the U.S., and other countries saw similar initiatives in solar energy emerge. Various entities are taking advantage of these record low tariffs. Solar power ultimately offsets operational costs on a long-term basis. Widespread solar usage also reduces respiratory and cardiovascular health concerns by reducing harmful emissions.
Actionable Change In Progress
Throughout the month of June, sustainable energy sources (wind turbines, dams, solar panels, etc.) produced more electricity than coal over a 90 period. These numbers confirm the continued increase in desire for these environmentally friendly energy sources. In three states, utility companies announced their plans to shudder coal-fired plants, evolving to the use of renewable sources. The Tucson Electric Power plant plans call for an 80% carbon emission reduction. The plan intends to be completed by 2035 and will use wind and solar resources. Meanwhile, Colorado Springs Utilities has pledged to achieve the same carbon reduction goal by 2030. In Florida, JEA signed a deal that will reduce carbon emissions by 1.3 million tons annually by 2024.
From a business standpoint, investing in renewable energy is considered a low-risk endeavor that typically provides positive returns. Sustainable energy sources often decrease operational costs for companies, providing added liquidity. This cash flow can be used to reinvest funding into other avenues. Unlike the volatile oil and gas markets, which can swiftly shift, renewable energy sources remain unmoved by outside influences. Thus, an increase in investors providing funds for the creation of corporate clean energy sources has emerged throughout the pandemic.
As the world collectively works to resume “normal” operations, opportunities to bolster the clean energy movement will undoubtedly rise. With incentives on the rise, business owners and investors will likely develop clean energy infrastructure. In fact, many planning processes are already in place. These intricate blueprints for change will be physically enacted when it is safe for installers, architects, and engineers to return to work.
These positive changes will propel environmental activism, and work actively to combat climate change. Additionally, if enacted on a large scale, they will also foster positive health and wellness benefits. The transition to clean energy will mitigate various health risks associated with greenhouse gases and emissions. The clean energy movement has been somewhat sidetracked as a result of the immediate need for pandemic relief. However, it has certainly not been forgotten. In a post-pandemic world, all signs point to the continued evolution of the clean energy movement. The collective lungs of billions of people are breathing a sigh of relief.