Countries powered by renewable energy recover faster from economic crises

Countries with a large amount of renewable energy recover fastest from economic crises, according to new research.

The study, published in Ecological Economics, examined 133 economic crises in 98 countries over a 40-year period (from 1970 to 2011).

The researchers found that the best predictor of economic recovery was the amount of renewable energy a country used.

Countries that relied on a broader range of energy sources, meanwhile, took longer to recover.

Graph showing recovery time in years on the y axis, renewable energy consumption in percentage on the x axis, lines roughly correlate to smaller recovery time with higher renewable energy consumption
Accounting for the size of each crisis, renewables were the best predictor of recovery speed. Credit: Donohue et al., 2023, Ecological Economics,

The researchers drew on data from the International Monetary Fund to examine the economic crises.

The researchers point out in their paper that their results are “purely correlative”, and can’t explain why there’s a link between renewable energy and economic recovery.

“Although the mechanisms underpinning our results are unclear, one likely explanation is that renewables accelerate recovery because they are locally-produced and not subject to the high volatility of availability and prices connected with fossil fuels,” says co-author Professor Robert Costanza, a researcher in ecological economics at University College London, UK.

Read more: Renewables, with storage, the cheapest energy in Australia

The researchers also point out that many countries responded to the 2008 global financial crisis, which occurred close to the end of their dataset, by investing in fossil fuels.

This could have undermined the economic stability of these countries and prolonged their recovery time.

“Our findings highlight the importance of the intrinsic link between natural resources provided by ecosystems and the stability of the economies that rely on them,” says lead author Professor Ian Donohue, head of the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

“Ultimately, they point to the need for a fundamental reassessment of both national and international energy policy, not only for the sake of our environment, but also to enhance the stability—and sustainability—of our economies.”

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