We have been thrust into the midst of one of those rare times in history when everything speeds up and changes. We were dealing with one set of challenges when a completely unexpected predicament arose that demanded an immediate response, and we know it will have long-lasting effects.
With all this uncertainty, there are a few things we can be sure of: when all this is over, we will be much poorer than we are now, the priorities of society will have changed, and we may become less united and defend different opinions on decisive matters we previously agreed on. Another reason for concern is the lack of leadership shown by the United States in the G7 and by the European Union in the G20, not to mention the lack of initiative displayed by multilateral institutions. Hard times are on the way.
Europe: Our Big Chance
However, despite all the setbacks, the major opportunity this crisis offers should not be overlooked: the chance to make real progress on the consolidation of the European Union based on solidarity, with a consensual agreement on reconstruction, in which the energy transition and the European Green Deal are given fast-track treatment. However, in its move forward, this new European Union must also implement strict, credible tax control and address the rebuilding of Industry 4.0 by taking advantage of the geographic reconfiguration of value chains we seem to be invariably heading for. It will be impossible to implement this “new economy” without taking a very serious approach to education at all levels, science and research.
The Post-COVID Energy Transition
But another factor relates to the very nature of this energy transition, which aims to go much further and get there sooner than current technology and the market can take us on their own.
We want to implement this energy transition in an attempt to avoid the destructive effects of climate change. But this worthy cause should not be confused with the process currently being implemented, which is a different one. For now, this process will involve net consumers of abundant resources. Will these resources be available as long as the transition lasts? Will there be a trade-off with other social needs that are also priorities?
Current and Future Drivers of Decarbonization
Fortunately, various technologies for reducing carbon dioxide emissions are making progress based on their own commercial merits (wind and solar photovoltaics, among others). Cost reductions and functionality improvements in energy-dense storage are also a source of hope for the near future and are expected to make a decisive contribution to solve challenges such as light-vehicle transport. Green and blue hydrogen will make major inroads when large-scale installations are feasible and the state of the art has moved forward enough for carbon to be replaced in the manufacture of basic materials. Finally, energy efficiency, along with associated technologies, presents the best tool within our reach for leveraging decarbonization, although the scarcity of successful business models and lack of signs in the form of prices, taxation and regulation are hampering our ability to reap all the benefits of this enormous potential.