Future of Energy

The environmental impact of Covid-19

Posted on 31 March 2020
By Michael Byrne
Michael Byrne
Head of Marketing and Insight

Michael worked in a number of diverse industries prior to joining npower Business Solutions (nBS) as a Product Manager in 2007. In 2012, Michael moved into nBS’ Marketing Team, which he currently leads as Head of Marketing and Insight. As the leader of the marketing function, Michael has key involvement in strategic marketing practices including digital marketing management, brand and social media, market intelligence and customer communications. Through his thorough grasp of industry developments, Michael ensures his team and the wider business are suitably positioned to meet the needs of business customers.

Amidst all the loss, fear and uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s hard to see any silver lining. But for the environment, there are some positive outcomes.

For example, year-on-year carbon emissions in China fell by 25% in February, with coal consumption down 36%, according to analysis by the Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air.

International Energy Agency figures show that globally, demand for oil has fallen by 1 million barrels per day compared to last year.

In the UK, air quality has greatly improved, with toxic particulates such as nitrogen dioxide down by as much as 50% in some major cities.

It’s a similar story in every country taking steps to limit the spread of Covid-19.

With pollution accounting for around 7 million deaths globally every year, cleaning up air quality – albeit only temporarily – has to be of benefit.

Hope from something terrible

“Are we looking at what we might see in the future if we can move to a low-carbon economy?” ask Professor Paul Monks, an expert in air pollution at Leicester University. “Not to denigrate the loss of life, but this might give us some hope from something terrible: to see what can be achieved.”

If like most of us at npower Business Solutions, you were one of the 16.8 million people who worked from home last week, you’ll have contributed to the dramatic drop in travel – and the consequent emissions reductions.

As flights around the world are grounded, even if travelling were permitted, going anywhere by plane is currently not an option. For us in the UK, this will reduce air travel emissions that annually contribute 6% of our overall CO2 output.

We can do things differently

“What the Covid crisis exposes is that we can do things differently,” says Sir Michael Marmot, Chair of the World Health Organisation’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health.

But, he warns, once the risk abates and life returns to normal: “We must not go back to the status quo.” 

For example, during the 2008 recession, global emissions reduced by 2% year on year – but then rose by 6% as policy makers and businesses accelerated efforts to make up for lost productivity.

At this time, the UK government “has an amazing opportunity to shape the economy in a slightly different way,” argues Professor Martin Siegert, co-director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London.

He suggests companies could be incentivised to adopt low-carbon business models. “We are spending money on almost every company in the country right now. What we should be doing is saying: ‘You can have this money but you need to be compliant with a zero-carbon future by 2050’.”

Saving energy to support financial recovery

Nearly every business will be working out how they can recover financially once this crisis is over. Reducing the cost of major overheads can dramatically impact the bottom line – and reducing energy (which can also cut carbon emissions) is a key place to start.

Our team of experts are here to help you navigate your way through this challenge. For existing customers, speak to your dedicated Client Lead. Or check out the range of resources available online in our Energy Management Toolkit.

For example, as well as a bespoke energy Cost Predictor forecasting tool, you’ll find a template and list of potential energy-saving measures you can use to shape a robust business case for implementing a long-term energy-saving strategy.

For now though, from all of us at npower Business Solution, we send you our very best wishes throughout this difficult time. Please remember, we are here to help if you need us.

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