Earlier this week, Spanish solar association UNEF convened an online debate to explore how the industry is navigating the impacts from the COVID-19 crisis. The session, attended online by PV Tech (see here for full coverage), opened the floor to sector players facing component delays and the government-mandated shutdown of solar factories and power plant construction work.
What follows is a selection of some of the statements by Juan Carlos Jadraque, Solar PV Area director at inverter manufacturer Ingeteam, as he addressed session attendees and fellow speakers.
On Ingeteam’s response so far:
“When the outbreak began in China clients started to ask if we’d be impacted. Although we source supplies from China it is not the only nor a critical market for us so we were able to solve this.”
“Then the virus expanded to an important market for us, Italy. It then became necessary to analyse case by case to determine a reaction plan … We more or less worked it out and we stuck to our commitments.
“When the virus reached Spain a series of measures became necessary … The same day schools closed we decided to send some 200 workers to work from home … We disinfected facilities, thought of protocols to reduce staff numbers.
“Last weekend was the next step … and this is when we have stopped serial production. In these times I feel the hour has come to show responsibility and business ethics and prioritise the health of staff, as well as that of their families and surrounding communities.”
On whether the COVID-19 crisis will raise solar prices:
“Contracts are in the long-term … this [crisis] is a pause, a delay … there might be friction over timetables but not costs.
“I’d like to see how everyone in this chain, from manufacturers to installers, builders, owners and financiers, accepts this as a stop. Because if one doesn’t, then it forces the other [to follow suit] … Whereas if we all stop the measure will be more effective and we’ll all be back sooner.”
On whether solar should ramp up lobbying to ensure it is not fully paralysed
“Of course the PV industry is strategic but there are many aspects at play … this is not like [Spanish grid operator] REE’s control centre, which cannot stop.
“If you’re making components for a plant that may not even be in Spain – let’s be honest, use [contract] clauses, speak to your clients and so forth … We all want to stay on but we’ve got to be ethical and responsible.”
On inverter component supply streams most affected by COVID-19:
“It varies … For all components we tend to work with two to three options suppliers-wise and they’re not all from the same country.
“We’ve got suppliers in Germany, many in Italy and in the domestic market [Spain], as well as in Turkey, China, etc. We try to split the risk across different baskets so we’re not that dependent – although there’s more of a reliance with some components, obviously.”
“In Italy, for instance, they have a different perspective on these restrictions. It’s not a subjective ranking of essential services but instead according to [the sector code numbers known as] CNAE – it encompasses the whole firm so it is an all-or-nothing approach.”
On how remote working will change Ingeteam’s organisation going forward:
“Before this we weren’t that supportive of remote working … as an engineering firm we saw it with a dose of scepticism but now a virus has come and sent us all home. For better or worse we’re now trying it out – I can see positive elements and others that need some work.”
The prospects and challenges of solar's new era in Europe will take centre stage at Large Scale Solar Europe 2020 (Lisbon, on 30 June-1 July 2020).
This publication has also set up a tracker to map out how the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting solar supply chains worldwide. You can read the latest updates here.
If you have a COVID-19 statement to share or a story on how the pandemic is disrupting a solar business anywhere in the world, do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.