2021: New year, new hope

John Williams

29 Dec 2020

Although 2020 was a very tough year due to COVID-19, there are a number of positive stories in the energy, cleantech and mobility sectors.

Energy and environment

One positive outcome of COVID-19 is a decrease in the use of fossil fuels. Electricity consumption has fallen and fewer people are travelling on the roads or in the air.

In the UK, banning sales of new fossil-fuel-powered cars has been brought forward 10 years to 2030. In the USA, the new White House administration is likely to make decarbonisation of energy a priority.

There are positive indications from all over the world that COVID-19-induced lockdown is improving environmental conditions including air and water quality and causes a significant concurrent reduction in PM2.5, NO2 and CO concentration which resulted in a significant increase in O3 concentration. International Journal of Environmental Science and Technology (IJEST), November 2020

With tourism currently halted in Italy, the long-polluted canals of Venice now appear to be much cleaner and wildlife is returning. Elsewhere, biodiversity is improving in other parts of the world.

American cities are adapting to the new COVID-19 normal by transforming mobility. Minneapolis is piloting new mobility hubs offering more low-carbon transit options by providing micro-mobility resources in populated areas. The Portland area start-up Ride Report is helping the city coordinate micro-mobility assets.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of drivers now prefer the safety and comfort of their own car over public transport. Furthermore, almost half of all drivers now want to switch to a zero-emission vehicle and play their part in tackling climate change and maintaining the improved air quality experienced at the beginning of the pandemic. Ipsos Global Research - Mobility Insights Report 2020

Tech

The fact that much of the world continues to operate as usual during the pandemic is a direct result of the technological progress of recent years and in particular people’s ability to work from home. The working environment has been changed by the use of telephony, internet calls and virtual interviews.

The trend towards more homeworking has made a step change with the pandemic and this will change organisation structures and the shape of business.

In the UK, where the Flat White Economy of tech users has been an economic driving force, we see this as especially important. Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR)

CEBR also estimates a rise in tech-based jobs from 10% of total employment in 2010 to 18% in 2025.

The UK is seen as a leader and it is inevitable that other countries will follow suit. Tech-enabled employment is very much a sign of the jobs of the future and further accelerates the globalisation of the labour market.

Conclusions

There cannot be much doubt that vaccines are the key to ending the pandemic. In a recent modelling study, Chad R. Wells et al predicted that vaccinating just 40% of US adults over the course of 2021 would reduce the coronavirus infection rate by around 75% and mitigate the attack rate across all age groups, substantially cutting hospitalisations and deaths from COVID-19.

Even though the pandemic is by no means over, there has been a return to growth. The introduction of various vaccines will further stimulate economic activity.

Underlying trends accelerated by the changes discussed above point to a greener and more tech-based world as we move towards 2030. It is understandable why Tilix and many of the firm’s peers in energy, cleantech and mobility see a silver lining.

Sources

  1. The impact of vaccination on COVID-19 outbreaks in the United States
  2. COVID-19 pandemic and its positive impacts on environment: an updated review
  3. World Economic League Table
  4. Venice canals clear and pollution free due to COVID-19
  5. Coronavirus: What has Covid done for climate crisis?
  6. Drivers demand clean and green mobility in the New Normal
  7. The Global Energy Challenge: The ‘new normal’
  8. Six cleantech trends in 2020