Asia, Online Articles |October 2, 2020

Reflections on the effect of COVID-19 on Energy Evaluation in the Asia Pacific Region

In a recent meeting, our Energy Evaluation Asia Pacific Group took some time to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on them personally, at work, nationally, and more widely on Energy Evaluation in the region. Here is a short summary of the discussion.

COVID-19 and energy

The global pandemic has affected the economic situation worldwide, with the global economy expecting to shrink by at least 6% in 2020.[1] It has also highlighted the importance of a reliable energy supply to enable hospitals to deliver vital care, and it has connected people in new ways despite working remotely in their own homes. Reduced energy consumption, in particular electricity, was a side-effect of economic slowdown and lockdowns.[2] However, an increased portion of this consumption and associated cost has fallen to individual households.

Working online

Face to face meetings are now tough to hold, and there’s a feeling that everything that can be done online, should be done online. Some of our members in China felt this had increased productivity, and had actually helped accelerate some projects. Others at the early stages of projects in Indonesia noted slow progress in the absence of face to face meetings. A colleague in New Zealand reported that they had used the time to organise for the future.

The current situation

Financial recovery and several stimulus programmes are happening in the region, some include energy efficiency measures but few plan to include evaluation.

In India, our members spoke about challenges and opportunities arising from the pandemic, with India being at a cornerstone point where new programmes on supply side and infrastructure are being initiated and are in a strong position to integrate energy efficiency and include evaluations at the design stage itself. Our colleagues in India had heard a lot of discussions by ministers about energy efficiency and renewable energy programmes and how they will contribute to generating jobs, but there is little discussion being had on energy efficiency and evaluation of these programmes in a serious manner.

Australia is planning both financial recovery programmes and energy efficiency programmes. Supporting low income and vulnerable households will be a clear priority, and recent multiple benefits work has provided evidence for governments wanting to have the maximum impact. Everyone is spending more time at home so households are now consuming energy and incurring costs which had been absorbed by workplaces previously.

In the USA, our members reported a lot of money going into financial recovery programmes which include spending on the energy transition. They believe that there is a need for policymakers to ensure energy and carbon emissions goals are being met while addressing the pandemic. Policymakers have been focused on the implementation of programs and policies and less attention has been spent on evaluation. There is an opportunity for evaluators to engage with policymakers to ensure evaluation is part of the mix when developing and implementing energy programs.

What next?

Past evaluations have produced a wealth of evidence which can be put to use in the current economic crisis. This discussion has prompted us to draw together the lessons we have learned from previous moments of crisis, and we will be publishing a blogpost on this soon, including useful resources. Watch this space!

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[1] http://www.oecd.org/economic-outlook/june-2020/

[2] https://www.iea.org/reports/covid-19-impact-on-electricity