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The Covid-19 crisis is causing the biggest fall in global energy investment in history

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The Covid-19 pandemic has set in motion the largest drop in global energy investment in history, with spending expected to plunge in every major sector this year – from fossil fuels to renewables and efficiency – the International Energy Agency said in a new report released today.

The unparalleled decline is staggering in both its scale and swiftness, with serious potential implications for energy security and clean energy transitions. At the start of 2020, global energy investment was on track for growth of around 2%, which would have been the largest annual rise in spending in six years. But after the Covid-19 crisis brought large swathes of the world economy to a standstill in a matter of months, global investment is now expected to plummet by 20%, or almost $400 billion, compared with last year, according to the IEA’s World Energy Investment 2020 report.

“The historic plunge in global energy investment is deeply troubling for many reasons,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “It means lost jobs and economic opportunities today, as well as lost energy supply that we might well need tomorrow once the economy recovers. The slowdown in spending on key clean energy technologies also risks undermining the much-needed transition to more resilient and sustainable energy systems.”

The World Energy Investment 2020 report’s assessment of trends so far this year is based on the latest available investment data and announcements by governments and companies as of mid-May, tracking of progress on individual projects, interviews with leading industry figures and investors, and the most recent analysis from across the IEA. The estimates for 2020 then quantify the possible implications for full-year spending, based on assumptions about the duration of lockdowns and the shape of the eventual recovery.

A combination of falling demand, lower prices and a rise in cases of non-payment of bills means that energy revenues going to governments and industry are set to fall by well over $1 trillion in 2020, according to the report. Oil accounts for most of this decline as, for the first time, global consumer spending on oil is set to fall below the amount spent on electricity.  

Companies with weakened balance sheets and more uncertain demand outlooks are cutting back on investment while projects are also being hampered by lockdowns and disrupted supply chains. In the longer-term, a post-crisis legacy of higher debt will present lasting risks to investment. This could be particularly detrimental to the outlook in some developing countries, where financing options and the range of investors can be more limited. New analysis in this year’s report highlights that state-owned enterprises account for well over half of energy investments in developing economies.

Global investment in oil and gas is expected to fall by almost one-third in 2020. The shale industry was already under pressure, and investor confidence and access to capital has now dried up: investment in shale is anticipated to fall by 50% in 2020. At the same time, many national oil companies are now desperately short of funding. For oil markets, if investment stays at 2020 levels then this would reduce the previously-expected level of supply in 2025 by almost 9 million barrels a day, creating a clear risk of tighter markets if demand starts to move back towards its pre-crisis trajectory.

Power sector spending is on course to decrease by 10% in 2020, with worrying signals for the development of more secure and sustainable power systems. Renewables investment has been more resilient during the crisis than fossil fuels, but spending on rooftop solar installations by households and businesses has been strongly affected and final investment decisions in the first quarter of 2020 for new utility-scale wind and solar projects fell back to the levels of three years ago. An expected 9% decline in investment in electricity networks this year compounds a large fall in 2019, and spending on important sources of power system flexibility has also stalled, with investment in natural gas plants stagnating and spending on battery storage levelling off.

“Electricity grids have been a vital underpinning of the emergency response to the health crisis – and of economic and social activities that have been able to continue under lockdown,” Dr Birol said. “These networks have to be resilient and smart to ward against future shocks but also to accommodate rising shares of wind and solar power. Today’s investment trends are clear warning signs for future electricity security.”

Energy efficiency, another central pillar of clean energy transitions, is suffering too. Estimated investment in efficiency and end-use applications is set to fall by an estimated 10-15% as vehicle sales and construction activity weaken and spending on more efficient appliances and equipment is dialled back.

The overall share of global energy spending that goes to clean energy technologies – including renewables, efficiency, nuclear and carbon capture, utilisation and storage  – has been stuck at around one-third in recent years. In 2020, it will jump towards 40%, but only because fossil fuels are taking such a heavy hit. In absolute terms, it remains far below the levels that would be required to accelerate energy transitions.

“The crisis has brought lower emissions but for all the wrong reasons. If we are to achieve a lasting reduction in global emissions, then we will need to see a rapid increase in clean energy investment,” said Dr Birol. “The response of policy makers – and the extent to which energy and sustainability concerns are integrated into their recovery strategies – will be critical. The IEA’s upcoming World Energy Outlook Special Report on Sustainable Recovery will provide clear recommendations for how governments can quickly create jobs and spur economic activity by building cleaner and more resilient energy systems that will benefit their countries for decades to come.”

The Covid-19 crisis is hurting the coal industry – with investment in coal supply set to fall by one-quarter this year – but does not pose an existential threat. Although decisions to go ahead with new coal-fired plants have come down by more than 80% since 2015, the global coal fleet continues to grow. Based on available data and announced projects, approvals of new coal plants in the first quarter of 2020, mainly in China, were running at twice the rate observed over 2019 as a whole.

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COVID-19 Accelerates Cycle of Paid Entertainment Subscriptions and Cancellations

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U.S. consumers had an average of 12 paid media and entertainment subscriptions pre-COVID-19.

Eighty percent of U.S. consumers now subscribe to a paid streaming video service. Subscribers pay for an average of four services, up from three pre-COVID-19.

In just a few months, since the COVID-19 outbreak, 17% of current subscribers cancelled a paid streaming video service.

Forty-seven percent of U.S. consumers cited using at least one free ad-supported streaming video service during the pandemic as they search for budget-friendly entertainment.

Thirty-eight percent of consumers have tried a new digital activity since the pandemic began, such as watching a livestreaming event.

Fifty percent of Millennials would be willing to attend a sporting event in the next six months, compared with just 28% of Boomers.

A third of U.S. consumers and nearly half of Gen Z and Millennials say that video games helped them get through a difficult time.

Why this matters
Deloitte conducted a pre-COVID-19 survey December 2019 – January 2020 and a second survey in May following the onset of the pandemic. Together, the surveys provide insight into how media consumption has changed. Deloitte found trends that were present pre-COVID-19 have accelerated, sometimes dramatically, in a short time.

Consumers have more time on their hands to watch, listen and play games. At the same time, it’s harder to keep customers as they can easily sample services via subsidized trial offers with no fear of penalties for cancelling. The pressures are likely to mount as consumers have less money to spend, with 39% of consumers reporting a decrease in their household income since the pandemic began. Media and entertainment companies can take this unprecedented moment to ask insightful questions and reevaluate their business in order to take advantage of windfalls, recover from setbacks, and thrive in the decade to come.

Subscriptions continue to swell, in spite of fatigue
Pre-pandemic, the survey found consumers were still enjoying digital entertainment more than ever and were willing to pay for multiple subscriptions. This trend has continued during the pandemic. However, there is growing frustration in trying to navigate the flood of streaming options, all while trying to manage costs. This fatigue may lead to increased cancellations. The May survey found that some consumers sign up for free trials, cancel when the trial ends or a favorite show or series is completed, and switch services in search of fresh content.

  • Pre-COVID-19, the average U.S. consumer had 12 paid entertainment subscriptions. Millennials averaged 17 subscriptions, Gen Z had 14, while Gen X had 13. Twenty-seven percent of consumers, including 42% of Millennials, said they planned to subscribe to more services in the coming year.
  • Pre-COVID-19, 40% of millennials were “overwhelmed” by the number of subscription services they manage, and 43% intended to reduce them.
  • Since the pandemic began, consumers have added and cancelled subscriptions of all kinds. For example, 20% of U.S. consumers made changes to their streaming music subscriptions: 12% added at least one music service, 5% cancelled at least one, and 3% added some and cancelled others.

Streaming video trending upward; will it sustain?
Not only do more consumers have streaming video services, the average streamer pays for more services than ever. However, as more media providers join the fray, competition is growing and putting pressure on content and pricing. Additionally, when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, consumers may reduce their subscriptions as they turn their time and attention to other activities.

  • Eighty percent of U.S. consumers say their households now subscribe to at least one paid streaming video service, up from 73% in the pre-COVID-19 survey.
  • Subscribers now have an average of four paid streaming video subscriptions, up from three in the pre-COVID-19 survey.
  • Pre-pandemic, 27% of U.S. consumers said they plan to add a new streaming video service in the coming year; since COVID-19, 32% have added at least one new paid streaming video service.
  • Nearly 70% of Boomers now have a paid streaming video subscription.
  • For nearly a quarter of subscribers, a free or discounted rate was a big factor in choosing a paid streaming video service.
  • Subscribers are drawn to streaming video services with a broad range of shows and movies (51%) and content they can’t get anywhere else (45%) — both originals and old favorites.
  • In the earlier survey, 20% of streaming video subscribers cancelled at least one service in the past year. Since the pandemic began, 17% of subscribers have already cancelled a service.
  • High costs (36%) and expiring discounts or free trials (35%) were cited as the top reasons for cancellation.

Ad-supported video streaming: battle of the business models
Ad-supported video streaming services may be gaining traction as some consumers would rather watch a certain level of advertising to reduce the cost of a subscription, or watch for free. Providers should consider which business model will resonate best with different consumers as they fight for viewers.

  • During the pandemic, nearly half (47%) of consumers cited using at least one free ad-supported streaming video service.
  • More U.S. consumers want access to cheaper, ad-supported streaming video options, both before (62%) and since the COVID-19 pandemic (65%), while 35% of consumers don’t want ads and will pay to avoid them.
  • Gen Z and millennials are more likely than older generations to prefer the subscription-only model they grew up with; Boomers and Matures like the ad-only option that closely resembles TV.

Binge gaming booms during the crisis
Consumers have been spending more time playing video games, especially during the pandemic. Video gaming has become a social experience, but also a family experience as more kids and teenagers embrace it and draw in their parents as well. In fact, a third of U.S. consumers and nearly half of Gen Z and Millennials say that video games helped them get through a difficult time.

  • Earlier this year, 24% of consumers surveyed listed playing video games among their top three favorite entertainment activities. For Gen Z and Millennials, it was 44% and 37% respectively.
  • In that same survey, 29% of consumers noted they were binge gaming weekly, for an average of 3.3 hours per session.
  • Since the crisis began, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers have participated in some form of video gaming activity. For Millennials, it is 69%, and for Gen Z, it is 75%.
  • In fact, 29% of U.S. consumers said they are likely to use their free time to play a video game than watch a video.
  • Seven percent (7%) subscribed to a video gaming service for the first time during the pandemic.
  • Among those participating in video gaming activities during the pandemic, 34% are playing video games at home with their families much more, and 27% are playing to socially connect with others.
  • Prior to COVID-19, 25% of consumers watched live-streamed and recorded video of others playing games. For Millennials and Gen Z, it was around 50%. These numbers continue to hold strong during the pandemic.

What does the future hold?
The pandemic has created conditions and opportunities for people to try new things as they search for ways to stay entertained during a challenging time. The question for service providers is will these new interests remain as consumers get back to normal, continue to grapple with economic hardship and become increasingly selective about the content they choose.

  • During the pandemic, 38% of consumers have tried a new digital activity or subscription for the first time.
  • The most popular activities are viewing livestreamed events and watching video with others through a social platform, web application, or videoconference.
  • More than two-thirds of consumers said they are likely to continue their new activity or subscription.
  • Twenty-two percent of consumers — 30% of Gen Z and 36% of Millennials — paid to watch a first-run movie on a streaming video service during the pandemic. Of those that did, 90% said they would likely do so again. Of those who did not, 42% of consumers said it was too expensive.
  • One-third of consumers noted they will not be comfortable attending live events for the next six months. Notably, 50% of Millennials and 47% of Gen Z would be willing to attend a sporting event in the next six months, compared with just 28% of Boomers.

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Sustained Reforms Crucial for Mongolia’s Long-Term Growth

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Mongolia can build a more inclusive and sustainable economy by improving macroeconomic management, strengthening human development, increasing international trade, and diversifying the economy by building on the country’s existing knowledge and expertise, including in the mining sector, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Diagnostic Study.

The study, Mongolia’s Economic Prospects: Resource-Rich and Landlocked Between Two Giants, presents an in-depth analysis of Mongolia’s economic opportunities and challenges, including the country’s wealth in natural resources as well as its unique geographical location, bordered by two of the world’s largest economies, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation.   

“Mongolia has seen major economic progress in the last 30 years and it has realistic aspirations to continue this development,” said ADB Country Director for Mongolia Pavit Ramachandran. “While challenges such as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic presents near-term obstacles, Mongolia has the right tools and opportunities to achieve long-term economic growth. This study provides a menu of policy options for the country to consider as it continues its remarkable economic journey.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) decelerated by 10.7% in the first quarter of 2020 as weaker global economic conditions combined with internal restrictions on economic activity dragged down growth. In a supplement of its Asian Development Outlook 2020, ADB is projecting a 1.9% contraction of Mongolia’s economy this year, before recovering to 4.7% growth in 2021.

Despite an almost threefold increase in Mongolia’s GDP per capita since 2000, the country’s economic growth has suffered from a series of boom and bust cycles over the last few years. The study notes that macroeconomic policy should aim to limit the volatility induced by fluctuating commodity prices, while focusing on a steady fiscal regime to entice foreign investors and creating a permanent savings mechanism.

International trade and long-term regional cooperation and integration should also be a priority for Mongolia given its unique geographic location. This will aid in the government’s goal of economic diversification, with international trade and tourism bringing in more resources, revenue, and technology to the country.

Last, the study notes that a focus on infrastructure with strong private sector participation—particularly in transport, communications, and energy—is key to Mongolia’s long-term economic growth. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s transition to a more services-based economy, policies focusing on strengthening the health care system and ensuring the development of strong human capital through quality education and skills development will also be key.

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Shift in Consumer Behaviour Spotlights Growing Cybersecurity Concerns

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The rapid increase in cyberattacks and pressures escalating from the abrupt step change to digital prompted by COVID-19 have shifted consumer behaviour. The findings of a new report released today by the World Economic Forum Platform for Cybersecurity and Digital Trust emphasize the vital role of cybersecurity in technological development and point to how companies can significantly reduce cyber risk – a necessity today, not a nice to have.

Incentivizing Responsible and Secure Innovation: A framework for entrepreneurs and investors highlights the shift in consumer behaviour and outlines how entrepreneurs can develop cybersecurity capabilities. The report provides a checklist of the essential cybersecurity requirements for developers, a risk-assessment tool and a guide for investors on how to validate them. It was developed by the World Economic Forum, executives from technology companies, investment firms, credit rating agencies, entrepreneurs, academics and public-policy experts.

“There is a serious imbalance between the “time to market” pressures and the “time to security” requirements for shiny new products and gadgets,” said Algirde Pipikaite, Industry Lead, World Economic Forum Platform for Cybersecurity and Digital Trust. “With the rapid increase of cyberattacks, companies need to prove to consumers that their data is secure. As the market shifts, we expect to see greater investment in companies prioritizing security and their longer-term success.”

The cyber essentials in the report include explicit core principles and requirements for new companies and products. They represent what the Forum’s Platform for Cybersecurity and Digital Trust and its partners consider to be the most important requirements that, if implemented, will provide a robust cybersecurity framework encompassing organizational, product and infrastructure security.

“Enterprises must understand that cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and the proposed cyber essentials provide clear and practical guidance to help companies of all types prioritize and implement security best practices” said Joram Borenstein, General Manager, Cybersecurity Solutions Group, Microsoft who contributed to the development of the insights report.

The cyber essentials need to be tailored to an organization’s size, nature and type of product. The report details each, followed by practical steps for their implementation and guidance for investors on how to validate them. They are: Organizational security, which includes cybersecurity culture, governance and cyber resilience; Product security, which includes security-by-design and privacy-by-design; and Infrastructure security, which includes data governance and third-party security.

“As the dependency on technology and digital solutions grows exponentially for millions of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, convenience and performance is taking priority while security is often seen as a secondary concern,” said Martina Cheung, President of S&P Global Market Intelligence. “Entrepreneurs, typically small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), represent about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide, and can be particularly vulnerable to cyber breaches. Public and private sector collaboration is essential to advancing cybersecurity awareness among entrepreneurs, while concurrently building innovation ecosystems with security top-of-mind.”

“An overwhelming majority of executives continue to be largely dissatisfied with the effectiveness of their cybersecurity spending, often all too myopically focused on the newest technologies,” said Benjamin Haddad, Director, Accenture Ventures and a contributor to the report. “A strategic trade-off needs careful consideration to benefit fully from the combined power of cyber innovation, while minimizing the threat and enabling the people to perform effectively.”

With the economy and society growing ever more dependent on technology and particularly so in the COVID-19 pandemic, the security and privacy of our digital tools are more important than ever. With the dissemination of the cyber essentials in this report, the World Economic Forum Platform for Cybersecurity and Digital Trust seeks to provide guidance to entrepreneurs and investors determined to develop responsible, sustainable and secure technology and practices.

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