Beyond COVID: Hopes for US rebound, virtual the new normal, European revival

By PV Tech


Image credit: Cityswift

This is the second instalment of our Beyond COVID series. See here for the first instalment, charting key news and developments for the week going from 1 to 7 June 2020.

Prior to this series, our PV Tech COVID-19 tracker instalments documented the pandemic's direct impacts from January to May. See here for our full archive.

The COVID-19 emergency has squeezed a lifetime-worth of disruption into just a few months, forever consigning the world we thought we knew to the past.

The arrival of June finds dozens of countries worldwide making tentative steps back to normality, a journey where hope for a better tomorrow mixes with the spectre of a second pandemic wave. A mainstream economic player in its own right, solar faces a similar balancing act – the need to double down on the pre-COVID momentum while accepting that chaos is far from over.  

Having spent months documenting the emergency’s immediate impacts through dedicated trackers (see here for links to the whole series), PV Tech is now shifting the spotlight to the longer term. Our new ‘Beyond COVID-19’ series will curate the news and developments of the post-pandemic green new world currently taking shape – and solar’s role in it.

Monday 8 June 2020

Renewables-led recovery would create ‘three times more jobs’ in Australia – study

Australia could triple the jobs it creates with the post-COVID recovery if it bets on green energy as a strategic axis rather than fossil fuels, according to a review by Ernst & Young (EY).

As reported by ABC, the analysis – commissioned by WWF Australia – found the country could unlock 58,000 jobs by fast-tracking renewable deployments and other measures, with further job gains if capital is invested in battery manufacturing (7,800), community solar (5,000) and others.

The talk of renewables as an economic force in Australia has been apparent for some time, with sector experts claiming a 46,000-strong workforce is possible by 2021. Where Europe has made green energy a recovery pillar, Australia is said by Reuters to be focusing on “cleaner burning gas”.

See here to read the ABC story in full and here for PV Tech’s coverage of Australian solar news

Solar-plus-storage project completed at UN Humanitarian Hub in South Sudan

A just-commissioned solar and battery storage system will reduce diesel consumption by at least 80% at a base for 300 humanitarian workers in South Sudan, managed by the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Independent solar power producer Scatec Solar, which is headquartered in Norway, said it has completed work on the project, combining a 700kWp solar PV system with a 1,368kWh battery energy storage system (BESS) and connected to existing diesel generators onsite.

The project is sited at the Humanitarian Hub in Malakal, South Sudan. According to the UN, the workers onsite – spanning more than 30 different organisations – service almost 30,000 internally displaced people who live in the UN’s Protection of Civilians (POC) site adjacent to the Hub. Until now, it had been using around 800 litres of diesel every day.

See here to read the PV Tech story in full

The project as it neared completion. Image: Omar Patan, IOM, Twitter.

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Solar lanterns a lifeline for COVID-stricken communities of rural India

Solar-powered lighting devices are emerging as a key ally of rural households in India, a country witnessing a surge of cases even as lockdown measures are relaxed.

Johannes Urpelainen, director at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, penned a recently article for The Economic Times where he called for an “effective solar lantern policy” that delivers these devices to help plug still-pervasive gaps in electricity access.

“Many of these households are very poor and often depend on day labor to make ends meet. They have been hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Urpelainen wrote, adding: “Solar lanterns would provide badly needed relief at a low cost.”

See here to read Urpelainen’s post in full and here for PV Tech’s recent coverage of Indian solar news

Sanders, Warren rally behind calls for post-pandemic lifeline for US renewables

The calls on the US to rescue its COVID-hit renewables sector are gathering steam, with high-profile Democrats now lobbying for new aid after the first stimulus package left the industry out.

In recent days, former Democratic presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala D. Harris and Amy Klobuchar all added their names to a letter calling on the US Congress to develop a “robust clean energy recovery” plan.

Signed by dozens of US Senate and House Democrats, the missive urges for action against the chaos the COVID-19 crisis has wreaked on US renewables, pointing at estimates of 594,300 industry jobs lost in March-April alone and losses of 850,000 possible by the end of June.

See here to read the PV Tech story in full

The quote: Democrats set sights on COVID-19's 'devastation' for clean energy jobs

“The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis are devastating the clean energy workforce and sector, undercutting our country's efforts to develop a strong and inclusive clean energy economy and severely hindering our nation's ability to combat climate change. As Congress develops forward-looking policies to rebuild the American jobs market and economy, we urge you to prioritize a robust clean energy recovery plan”

Wednesday 10 June 2020

Stakeholders link arms for European solar manufacturing revival

The campaign to bring solar makers back to a post-COVID Europe has gathered steam in recent days, with key lobbying and innovation associations signing up to a new continent-wide platform.

The European Solar Manufacturing Council (ESMC) – a body born from the phase-out of EU solar tariffs in 2018 – and the European Technology and Innovation Platform PV (ETIP-PV) have now joined the so-called Solar Manufacturing Accelerator, the creation of SolarPower Europe.

The Accelerator, an attempt to revive solar factories and R&D, sees the light as Europe decides which technologies will steer the post-pandemic economy. Based on the European Commission’s new plan, downstream renewables and green hydrogen will be priority areas.

See here for the latest update on the Accelerator and here for PV Tech’s coverage of the EU’s proposal for a green COVID-19 comeback

Solar and storage supply chains adopt virtual events to sidestep travel restrictions

In the absence of live events and exhibitions this summer, the solar PV and energy storage supply chains have adopted online and virtual events to ramp up marketing activity.

Live events and international trade shows have been hard hit by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Quarantine measures and international travel restrictions have significantly impacted their operation and, as a result, most have been cancelled or postponed.

But while mid-June would have ordinarily seen the industry finalise booth plans and product presentations ahead of Intersolar Europe and others, operator – including Huawei, SolarEdge, Sungrow and Trina Solar – have taken to hosting online events and virtual shows in their place. 

PV Tech has also been very active in this field by providing PV companies with its TechTalk and TechTalk Product webinar series. 

See here to read the PV Tech story in full

A panel session from one of Solar Media's Digital Summits last month. Image: Solar Media.

Thursday 11 June 2020

Pandemic no match for renewable cost slump despite talk of ‘setback’ – think tank

A raft of new analyses has laid bare the divisions around whether COVID-19 will derail years of renewable cost drops, with predictions from the International Energy Agency (IEA) subjected to fresh scrutiny.

This week, think tank the IEEFA released a study predicting the cost-efficiency gains of solar and others will continue despite the pandemic, contrasting the forecast with those it claimed the IEA had issued last month.

“IEEFA draws a conclusion completely at odds with what the IEA is saying, notably that COVID-19 is a setback for the inevitable technology-driven trends of deflationary renewables,” the report said, adding: “We see increased stranded thermal asset risks.”

See here to read the PV Tech story in full

US solar dares hope for comeback amid forecasts of full-year 18GWdc installs

A buoyant utility-scale ecosystem will allow US solar to sidestep the COVID-19 disruption and end 2020 with 33% more installs than in 2019, according to SEIA and Wood Mackenzie.

The latest update from the PV body and the consultancy predicted that nearly 18GWdc of new solar could be added US-wide in 2020, a sizeable jump on 2019 installs (13.3GWdc) despite the US’ rise this year to a global pandemic hotspot.

The report underpinned the talk of growth on utility-scale players, expected to install 14.4GWdc of the total 18GWdc of solar alone. The figure would make 2020 “the biggest year on record” for the segment, ahead of its earlier all-time high of 10.7GWdc in 2016.

See here to read the PV Tech story in full

Having installed 2.3GWdc in Q1 2020, a first quarter record, utility-scale solar firms have found COVID-19’s impacts – project delays, hikes of financing costs – are so far “manageable”, the report said. Image credit: SEIA, Wood Mackenzie

Friday 12 June 2020

‘An incredible achievement’: UK goes coal-free for two months

Great Britain has smashed previous records as it went a staggering two months without coal generation, PV Tech’s sister title Current± reports.

The milestone was passed at midnight of Wednesday 10 June 2020, two months after the country’s last operational coal station – Drax unit 5 – was switched off, according to EnAppSys.

National Grid ESO confirmed the UK was set to achieve the milestone on Twitter, stating: “Great Britain’s record #coalfree run of #electricity generation is still powering on, and is set to hit the two month mark at midnight tonight – an incredible achievement”.

See here to read the full story on PV Tech's sister title Current± 

BNEF: New corporate mindset might aid India’s solar manufacturing quest

India’s post-COVID campaign to restart solar manufacturing and curb its dependency on Chinese imports could be boosted by a shift in corporate priorities, BloombergNEF’s Vandana Gombar has said.

In a post shared on social media, the editor acknowledged that the upstream push – including duties for imports even as local factories are offered cheap power and financial incentives – will have to contend with the reality that made-in-India modules “may not be the most competitive”.

“What may work in India's favour, however, is the strategic shift in the priorities of companies and countries post COVID-19: comparative costs have ceased to be the only criterion for deciding on equipment supply,” Gombar added.

See here to read Gombar’s column in full and here for PV Tech’s analysis of India’s new solar manufacturing campaign

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