COVID-19 prompts solar tender recalibration across key European markets

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Image credit: Guilhem Vellut / Flickr

France and Germany are to alter solar tender rules in a bid to adjust to a reality of sweeping project delays as COVID-19 spreads, with industry intervening to ensure auctioning does not stop altogether in the short term.

At a recent meeting, French government representatives told industry players a 1GW ground-mount solar tender due initially on 3 July 2020 will be split (see table below for new timetable) between that same date (one-third of 1GW) and a second exercise on 3 November 2020 (two-thirds).

Xavier Daval, chair of French PV body SER-SOLER, told PV Tech today the decision to break up rather than fully postpone the solar auction came after his association called on the government to move in this very direction.

Known as DGEC, the Energy and Climate directorate at the French Environment Ministry agreed to SER-SOLER’s proposal not to delay tenders altogether for now to ensure solar firms can keep some “positive tension” at a tricky time for the industry, Daval said.

“The thing is, many employees are being sent home so we need to maintain some sort of spirit,” said Daval, who is the CEO of technical advisory firm kiloWattsol. “Our industry needs to keep something on our plate, deadlines to act on. It is a positive way to keep some pressure on.”

France’s move to rearrange solar tender dates – including for rooftop systems as well as a scheme to repower old nuclear sites – come as the country works to meet steep PV growth targets. The goals require doubling installed capacity by 2023 (18-21GW) and then again by 2028 (35.6-44.5GW).

France’s new solar auction dates

Solar segment Old tender dates New tender dates
Ground-mount solar 3 July 2020 3 July 2020 (one-third of 1GW), 3 November 2020 (two-thirds)
Solar repowering of old nuclear site 31 July 2020 30 September 2020
Rooftop solar 6 July 2020 6 September 2020
Innovative solar 3 April 2020 3 June 2020
Solar for non-interconnected zones 12 June 2020 12 August 2020
Self-consumption 18 May 2020 18 July 2020

Across the border in Germany – where 33,952 people have contracted COVID-19 versus France’s 22,637, based on the latest available stats – authorities also moved to tweak solar auctioning rules, albeit by taking a different approach.

If Paris is postponing tenders later in the year, Berlin has opted not to shake up the calendar. In recent days, regulator the Federal Network Agency (FNA) said green energy tender dates will not change for now, adding: “They are prescribed by law … Participants must submit their bids on time.”

However, the federal body will try and protect solar and wind bidders by not announcing its initial award decision online. “This means that the deadlines (including penalties, implementation deadline and payment of the second security) do not begin to run,” the FNA explained.

According to the agency, the online silence regarding award decisions will hold until after “the situation calms down.” It will not extend to other tender information, however, with plans by FNA to still publish stats for bids received and the highest and lowest tariff.

Germany’s move to support renewable developers facing the fallout from COVID-19 comes after solar players sounded the alarm over knock-on impacts. Last week, national PV body BSW Solar specifically called for auction deadlines to be extended.

The country was recently told it will comply with emission cut targets for this year, but only thanks to milder winter weather and pandemic-driven transport shutdowns. Long-term progress, said think tank Agora Energiewende, will require doubling down on green growth investments.

PV Tech will publish in the coming days an in-depth Q&A with SER-SOLER CEO Xavier Daval over the challenges faced by French solar as COVID-19 intensifies

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.

The prospects and challenges of solar's new era in France, Germany and the rest of Europe will take centre stage at Large Scale Solar Europe 2020 (Lisbon, on 30 June-1 July 2020).

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