Image credit: CDC / Unsplash
This is the latest issue of PV Tech's COVID-19 tracker. See links ahead to browse our archives for all news and developments for January 2020 - 29 March 2020, 30 March 2020- 5 April 2020, 6 April 2020 - 12 April 2020, 13 April 2020 - 19 April 2020, 20 April 2020 - 26 April 2020 and 27 April 2020 - 3 May 2020.
Over its first few months of existence, the COVID-19 crisis has already wreaked major havoc across the world, and the solar industry has not been immune.
From hampered flows of raw materials for manufacturers to financing delays for developers, both upstream and downstream PV players have already felt the weight of the pandemic as it continues its global trek, infecting hundreds of thousands and sparking talk of a worldwide recession.
Only time can confirm what the long-term implications will be from what remains a still-maturing crisis. For now, however, PV Tech will keep an eye on reports on the ground and sound out industry players to share here the latest news and developments as they come, starting with the most recent.
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.
Green energy holds AU$50bn, 50,000 job COVID-19 lifeline, Australia told
7 May 2020: Australian green energy representatives have put forward a roadmap they claim could unlock a multi-billion boost for the country’s economy if it invests in renewables.
Pressing on with the “hundreds” of large-scale solar and wind projects currently proposed in Australia could bring about a 30GW-plus green energy fleet, investment of AU$50 billion (US$32.2 billion) and 50,000 new construction jobs, according to the Clean Energy Council (CEC).
Presenting the plan, CEC CEO Kane Thornton said the association is not proposing a “handout” but instead wants the government to leverage the “enormous appetite” that already exists for clean energy among private investors.
The government, Thornton went on to say, could trigger the renewables-powered COVID-19 recovery suggested by the CEC if actions are focused on “smart regulatory reform, sensible energy policy and investment in the grid and energy storage”.
Solar Media events go digital to keep industry debate alive in uncertain times
Solar Media’s new Digital Summits series has been launched to provide critical market insights, intelligence and networking opportunities to maintain our industries’ momentum. Running throughout May and June, the Digital Summits will deliver the full live event experience to your own home.
1. Energy Storage Digital Series: 11-15 May. See here for more information on how to take part.
2. Large Scale Solar Digital Series: 18-22 May. See here for more information on how to take part.
3. Solar & Storage Finance Digital Series: 1-5 June. See here for more information on how to take part.
4. EnTech Digital Series: 15-19 June. See here for more information on how to take part.
5. Everything EV Digital Series: 6-10 July. See here for more information on how to take part.
SunPower taps Silicon Valley lender for one-billion-dollar funding boost
7 May 2020: SunPower Corp. has enlisted a Silicon Valley-based lender to unlock a major pot of new funding, bringing a reprieve for a firm forced to slash budgets and idle factories as COVID-19 impacts bite.
On Tuesday, the high-performance PV manufacturer unveiled a partnership that will see the Technology Credit Union (Tech CU) inject a fresh US$1 billion into the firm, with capital set to flow over the next four years.
See here to read the PV Tech story in full
Leak suggests renewables will be one of Europe’s recovery pillars – reports
7 May 2020: Yet more momentum is building around the campaign for a green European COVID-19 comeback, with solar and climate experts from the EU27 and the UK adding to the calls.
From a new solar manufacturing alliance to the UK’s Committee on Climate Change (CCC), various stakeholders joined this week the continent-wide push for Europe to ensure environmental principles are embedded into pandemic recovery measures.
Reports by Spanish outlet El PAÍS suggest the calls on a green comeback are not being ignored by the European Commission, at least on the renewable front. Citing a leaked “preparatory document”, the outlet claimed this week the EU executive sees green energy as a pillar of an upcoming COVID-19 plan – the table below has more information.
See here to read the PV Tech story in full
What the leaked doc tells about the EU's post-COVID green energy vision
According to EL PAÍS, renewables rank as a “second great priority” in the European Commission’s draft recovery plan, passed only by a self-styled “wave of building renovation” that could see billions spent on overhauling the EU’s building stock to help the bloc become climate neutral by 2050.
On the green energy front, the EU executive’s plan is quoted by EL PAÍS as saying the renewables sector could require €75 billion (US$81 billion) in extra annual funding, on top of what was already committed in previous years.
The leaked draft, EL PAÍS reports, says that the upcoming recovery plan could contribute €10 billion (US$10.8 billion) of the €75 billion total. According to the Spanish outlet, such support to renewables would mostly come in the form of loans, with more limited subsidies granted based on the maturity of each segment.
See here for the original report
BayWa r.e. parent posts ‘typical’ Q1 2020 results as renewable unit meets expectations
7 May 2020: German group BayWa AG scored in Q1 2020 financial results broadly in line with last year’s as its renewables unit BayWa r.e. “performed as planned”, according to an update this week.
On Thursday, the parent firm – with operations in energy but also farming and building materials – posted Q1 2020 revenues of €3.9 billion (€4.1 billion in Q1 2019) and -€27.8 million in EBIT (-€13.8 million in Q1 2019).
The results, described by BayWa AG as “typical for the season”, followed the sale by green energy unit BayWa r.e. this quarter of a 27MW floating solar trio in the Netherlands. The division is expected to divest a further 1.2GW of solar and wind projects over the rest of 2020.
See here to read BayWa AG’s statement in full
Total’s net-zero drive sees it recommit to renewables target despite COVID-19
7 May 2020: Total has become the latest oil and gas (O&G) major to set its sights on becoming net zero by 2050, reconfirming its plans for a major green energy push despite the recent financial hit from the oil market crisis.
Earlier this week, the French group said it would stick to its previously announced target to reach a 25GW renewables portfolio by 2025, as part a new plan to reach net zero emissions by mid-century.
See here to read the PV Tech story in full
Spanish solar operators join push for auctions to restart growth
7 May 2020: Spanish solar’s campaign for the country to hold auctions this year able to rekindle growth secured more supporters at a recent webinar, held by PV association UNEF.
Earlier this week, developers and financiers speaking at the online discussion underscored the importance of tenders to mitigate the impacts from COVID-19, which has triggered a crash of power prices operators fear could dampen merchant finance prospects.
Panelist Roger Font, a director at Banco Sabadell, told fellow webinar attendees that financiers will continue to support the "renewable revolution" despite the present crisis. “We understand that the current situation with the power market will stabilise in the short term,” Font said.
“The financial sector is supporting and will continue supporting the renewables revolution despite the current situation. We understand the present state-of-play of the power market will stabilise in the short term, and taking into account the long-term nature of investments, the viability of these is really solid”—Roger Font, Director at Banco Sabadell
Campaigners urge Maryland to act against renewable project hold-up
7 May 2020: Activists have started gathering signatures to call on the US state of Maryland to undo the bottlenecks they say could be delaying dozens of renewable projects.
More than 40 utility-scale solar projects and two major offshore wind projects are “in danger of being held up in Maryland in part by the slow pace and misguided regulatory focus of the state’s Public Service Commission,” reads the campaign by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
Regulator confirms Portugal’s coal-free milestone as green energy thrives
7 May 2020: Lockdown measures have helped bring about a watershed moment for Portugal’s electricity market, with coal generation hitting zero for over a month even as renewables neared a 70% share.
On Wednesday, grid operator REN confirmed that Portugal had scored coal-free electricity production for the whole of April, a historic first since the current coal power plants of Sines and Pego were switched on in 1985.
The coal-free window – which campaigners believe lasted 52 days in Portugal, beating the UK’s own 18-day zero-coal record – came as renewables reached a combined 69% supply share in April 2020, with hydro power (35%) and wind output (26%) far ahead of solar’s (2%).
COVID-19 no match for UK large-scale solar pipeline as segment breaks 8GW mark
7 May 2020: The pipeline of large-scale solar farms in the UK saw a massive uptick in April 2020 as capacity additions reached a new record, according to our sister title Solar Power Portal.
The total pipeline – spanning solar farms at the scoping/screening stage, through to having planning conditions discharged pre-build – now exceeds 8GW, as developers take another huge step to getting the UK market back to the GW-level of new builds from 2021 onwards.
The findings are part of Solar Media’s market research reports, providing full audit trails of both completed and pipeline sites. See link ahead to find out more about the analysis.
See here to read the Solar Power Portal story in full
During April 2020, 738MW of new solar farms were added to the UK large-scale solar pipeline database, reflecting a record monthly addition.
Solar amongst pillars of India’s charm offensive for factory relocation
6 May 2020: Solar lies among the 10 sectors targeted by India’s government as it seeks to persuade foreign operators to bring their factories to the country, Bloomberg reports.
Together with medical devices, electronics and others, solar manufacturing is one of the industries India is trying to attract via easy land access, according to the outlet. The campaign has so far sparked the interest of Japanese, US, South Korea and Chinese firms, Bloomberg said.
India’s plans to rekindle its campaign for solar manufacturing first emerged in late April, when government letters ordered the setting aside of land for potential new factories. As documented by PV Tech, the country is keen to curb the reliance on Chinese panels COVID-19 has exposed.
COVID-wary US solar reps add new Trump ban to potential woes
6 May 2020: US green energy players grappling with impacts from the COVID-19 crisis have witnessed this month the adoption of a ban targeting electric equipment purchases involving “foreign adversaries”.
On 1 May, US president Donald Trump added his signature to an executive order outlawing the “acquisition, importation, transfer, or installation of any bulk-power system electric equipment” if it involves a foreign sponsor and is judged to be a threat to the US.
Lawyers approached by PV Tech this week were still working to interpret the scope of the vaguely-worded order. In a prepared statement, law firm Norton Rose Fulbright said the “order leaves more questions than it answers” but “arguably” does not apply to solar and wind components.
See here to read the PV Tech story in full
In Trump's own words: The order at the heart of the confusion
These are the provisions at the core of Donald Trump's new crackdown on power equipment purchases:
Section 1. Prohibitions and Implementation. (a) The following actions are prohibited: any acquisition, importation, transfer, or installation of any bulk-power system electric equipment (transaction) by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, where the transaction involves any property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest (including through an interest in a contract for the provision of the equipment), where the transaction was initiated after the date of this order, and where the Secretary of Energy (Secretary), in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and, as appropriate, the heads of other executive departments and agencies (agencies), has determined that:
(i) the transaction involves bulk-power system electric equipment designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied, by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of a foreign adversary; and
(ii) the transaction:
(A) poses an undue risk of sabotage to or subversion of the design, integrity, manufacturing, production, distribution, installation, operation, or maintenance of the bulk-power system in the United States;
(B) poses an undue risk of catastrophic effects on the security or resiliency of United States critical infrastructure or the economy of the United States; or
(C) otherwise poses an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of United States persons.
See here to read the executive order in full
UK approves urgency of decision on extraordinary powers over COVID-19 blackout risks
6 May 2020: UK energy regulator Ofgem has ruled that National Grid ESO's Grid Code modification request regarding disconnecting embedded generation is urgent, with a final decision expected before the end of the week.
As reported by sister title Current±, the ESO had raised in earlier days an urgent modification to clarify its powers around having DNOs disconnect embedded generators across the country, amid fears that the exceptionally low demand expected this coming bank holiday could cause blackouts.
See here to read the full story on PV Tech’s sister title Current±, including analysis by reporter Alice Grundy
Industry: Brazil’s tariff hikes can push customers to cheaper solar
6 May 2020: The electricity tariff rises expected as Brazil responds to the COVID-19 pandemic could incentivise a switch to more inexpensive solar systems, industry operators have said.
In recent days, Brazilian solar association ABSOLAR said the forecasts of a 20% tariff hike could push customers to cheaper PV installations. PV, said CEO Rodrigo Sauaia, is an “alternative at a time of scarce resources”, with households under pressure to curb expenses and boost savings.
Renewables dominate coal for record 40-day period in lockdown-era US – IEEFA
6 May 2020: Utility-scale solar, wind and hydro power generated together more electricity than coal-fired plants for 40 consecutive days over the past few weeks, according to IEEFA.
Earlier this week, the think tank analysed stats from federal body the EIA and concluded output from the renewable trio surpassed the fossil fuel's between 25 March and 3 May. Green energy’s leadership over coal every day in April marks a monthly first in the US' history, the IEEFA said.
Image credit: IEEFA (Stats are EIA's)
New York solar reps in final survey push to gauge COVID-19 impacts
6 May 2020: The New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA) is on the lookout for feedback from sector operators on the disruption COVID-19 is bringing to their businesses.
In recent days, NYSEIA said it was making a “final push” to reach out to New York State-based solar businesses. “Your answers will assist our advocacy for the solar construction restart and subsequent clean energy economic recovery,” the association added.
Solarcentury predicts post-COVID renewables spree as it posts sterling financial results
6 May 2020: Despite short-term challenges caused by COVID-19, solar power's competitive nature could see it accelerate as we move forward, according to Solarcentury.
The claims, reported by our sister title Solar Power Portal, came as the firm posted bumper-year results for the year running to 31 March 2020, including revenues increasing by 87% and EBITA growing by a record amount.
See here to read the full story on PV Tech’s sister title Solar Power Portal
Industry promises legal action as Mexico blocks renewables on ‘stability’ grounds
6 May 2020: The stage is now set for yet another legal dispute between Mexico’s government and the renewables sector, with the former acting to freeze project connections in a supposed bid to underpin system stability in the COVID-19 era.
In recent days, power market operator CENACE moved to block nationwide the tests required to switch on renewable plants. The measure kicked in on 3 May, following Mexico's transition into a new lockdown phase to contain the recent escalation of virus cases.
CENACE’s plan singles renewables out as an obstacle to system stability. In response, business council CCE hit out at the claims, saying the private sector will take the necessary legal measures [against CENACE's changes] to preserve the level field and Mexicans' right to a healthy environment.”
See here to read this PV Tech story in full
“The intermittent generation from wind and PV plants affects the reliability of the national electricity system, [impacting] the sufficiency, quality and continuity of power supply ... Wind and PV plants do not contribute to the primary control regulation of frequency quality ... nor to grid inertia”—Mexican state-owned power market operator CENACE
UK solar at risk of switch-offs as ESO seeks urgent disconnect powers
5 May 2020: The UK’s electricity system operator is seeking emergency powers to disconnect embedded generation including residential PV, fearing tumbling demand this national holiday weekend could spark national blackouts.
National Grid ESO, the company tasked with managing the country’s electricity system, raised an urgent Grid Code modification seeking the powers last week (30 April 2020).
See here to read the full story on PV Tech’s sister title Current±
Solar power jumps in India as lockdown takes demand to 13-year lows
5 May 2020: Solar generation rose 16.9% in India over the month of April as the national quarantine to contain COVID-19 cases pushed electricity demand to lows not seen for 13 years.
Reuters analysed provisional government data and found hikes in PV generation in India’s south and gas generation in the west, coinciding with the adoption of lockdown measures meant to confine the country’s one-billion-plus population.
EU solar generation jumps 28% year-on-year in month of lockdown
5 May 2020: Dynamics set in motion by the COVID-19 crisis and weather patterns have mixed to push EU solar generation to new heights, amid talk by analysts that the jump evidences the need for flexibility.
Over the past few weeks, analysts had documented various solar generation milestones across individual European countries, with Germany, Spain and the UK among the nations reaching new highs as their economies ground to a standstill.
Think tank Ember tried last week to put figures on the shift for the whole of the EU27-plus-UK group. The research, carried out for outlet Carbon Brief, found solar and wind reached a joint 23% share among these 28 states in the 28 March 2020 - 26 April 2020 period, a “record-high” figure.
See here to read the PV Tech story in full
RES, solar energy mix shares across major EU27 states (plus UK)
|Country||Solar/wind share (28 March-26 April 2019)||Solar/wind share (28 March-26 April 2020)||Solar generation share (28 March-26 April 2019)||Solar generation share (28 March-26 April 2020)|
Source: Ember for Carbon Brief
The current green-heavy grid a ‘taste of what’s to come’
5 May 2020: Andy Lowe, Head of business development at Flexicitricy, recently penned an article for our sister title Current± where he examined the opportunities and risks the UK power market faces from the increasing uptake of solar and wind, and the role storage batteries could play.
See here to read Lowe’s post in full on PV Tech’s sister title Current±
French minister floats ambitions for PV manufacturing comeback
5 May 2020: The French government has pointed at solar manufacturing as one of the many pillars of its comeback from the COVID-19 economic shock, amid talk of the need to curb the country’s “dependency” on imports.
Speaking to French MPs late last week, Environment minister Elisabeth Borne highlighted the country’s ambitions to “relocalise” the production of PV panels, batteries, hydrogen, which she described as “strategic assets”.
Minister Borne’s focus on domestic PV manufacturing – a plan president Emmanuel Macron tabled last year, as documented by PV Tech – came as she spoke of the need to ensure COVID-19 relief “does not derail” the carbon neutrality goals France adopted pre-pandemic.
PODCAST: Record low solar prices and seismic shocks for worldwide energy markets
5 May 2020: This month’s episode of the Solar Media Podcast is now available to listen to, with discussion centring around record low solar prices and tumbling LCOE forecasts.
Solar Media’s Liam Stoker and Andy Colthorpe also take a look at the seismic shocks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on global power markets and what they might mean for renewables in the future.
The podcast can be streamed below:
South African energy regulator to stick to remote working as lockdown eases
5 May 2020: The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) will continue to process project applications and other work areas online, sticking to remote working arrangements as the national lockdown eases.
NERSA’s statement comes days after green energy bodies issued joint calls on the government to allow project construction to resume this month, coinciding with the lockdown’s relaxation. The associations said 2.23GW of large-scale renewables lies under construction, 800MW of it solar.
Australian rooftop solar braces for May hit after record April – reports
5 May 2020: Australia’s rooftop solar segment has reached another installation milestone in April 2020 but could potentially witness a “drop-off” in May, it has been reported.
In figures reported by RenewEconomy, Green Energy Markets recently claimed the country’s residential and commercial PV segments “smashed it” despite COVID-19 in April. Impacts might start to surface as installers complete the backlog of orders amassed pre-pandemic, the firm said.
Portugal’s delayed solar auction launch weeks away as country sets new date
4 May 2020: Portugal plans to kickstart next month the solar tender it had postponed as the country began its campaign to contain the COVID-19 emergency, the government has confirmed.
Contacted by PV Tech last Friday, a spokesperson from Portugal’s Environment Ministry said that the 700MW solar auction launch – initially due in late March – will take place instead on 8 June 2020, with plans to reveal the winners by the end of August.
The inner workings of Portugal's 700MW solar auction
1 - Now scheduled to launch on 8 June 2020, the upcoming tender will feature the following three modalities:
- Solar developers bidding for 15-year fixed-price PPAs (this is the category France's Akuo Energy was part of when it scored the €14.76/MWh tariff)
- Solar developers accepting to pay in return for the right to produce at market prices, also for 15 years (this is the category Iberdrola was part of as it reaped 149MW in contracts)
- Storage developers: According to Galamba, the new modality will work as a “quid pro quo” insurance-type scheme. Storage developers will receive from the system an annual fixed price per MW installed; by competing in the auction, they will bid down the prices they are prepared to receive. In return, they will insure the system against price rises beyond a certain level, compensating it when market prices climb over strike prices.
2 - Where last year's 1.15GW auction was open to projects all across the country, this year's 700MW successor will exclusively target the southern regions of Alentejo and Algarve.
3 - According to Galamba, the government's plan as of late March 2020 is that the 700MW solar tender will be followed by another exercise of 500MW (the figure is indicative) towards the end of this year.
New reports cast fresh spotlight on COVID-19 toll on US renewables
4 May 2020: New reports have come to expose once more the impacts the COVID-19 crisis is causing for US solar and wind developers, with residential solar so far bearing the brunt.
Over the weekend, an Associated Press story examined the implications the pandemic has spelt for a US renewable sector that was expecting, before the emergency, a “record-setting” year.
IEA: Renewables to sidestep ‘historic shock’ as only power source to grow in 2020
4 May 2020: Renewables will stand alone as the only generation class to experience growth in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic delivers the most seismic shock to the power sector since the Great Depression.
That is the key takeaway from the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) 2020 Global Energy Review, a report meant to explore the full impact of the pandemic on energy demand and generation as nations worldwide enact lockdown measures.
The report, published late last week, forecasts that global energy demand will fall by some 6% this year, a decline roughly seven-times that of the drop experienced during the 2008 financial crisis and the most severe drop since the second world war.
See here to read the PV Tech story in full
Renewables could feasibly deliver 40% of global power in 2020, cementing the lead over incumbent fossil fuels the asset class had seized last year. Image credit: The IEA
Vivint Solar lines up US$50m tax equity boost to keep up activity
4 May 2020: US residential installer Vivint Solar has secured a fresh US$50 million in tax equity funding from an unidentified “repeat tax equity investor”, according to a new statement.
In recent days, the firm said it would dedicate the tax equity boost to leases and power purchase agreements, amid estimates that the new funding would cover the roll-out of systems for more than 4,000 customers.
‘Here comes the sun’: Spanish grid operator goes Beatles as PV hits new record
4 May 2020: Spanish solar generation has taken weeks to break its own generation records, nearing a third of nationwide supply as the country readies for a slow comeback to normality.
In recent days, grid operator REE revealed Spanish solar plants reached a power supply of 8.753GW as of 13:51 Central European Time on 29 April 2020, effectively covering a 31% of nationwide demand. The record outstrips the 25.6% share Spanish PV had recorded one month before.
Tesla’s solar and storage installs dip as firm avoids Q1 2020 shock
4 May 2020: Tesla has kept financial losses at bay in the first quarter of the year, posting strong group-wide EBITDA and revenue numbers amid high hopes for its solar roof line in the longer term.
Releasing a financial update last week, the Silicon Valley firm claimed its US$16 million in positive GAAP net income this quarter marks the first time the indicator is on the black in its Q1 series, a milestone achieved even as the COVID-19 crisis forced it to shutter factories.
The 35MW solar installs (see table below) in Q1 2020 were Tesla’s second lowest figure on record, following the all-time low of 29MW posted in Q2 2019. The numbers remain a far cry from the 150-200MW quarterly volumes Tesla used to report in 2016 and early 2017.
See here to read the PV Tech story in full
Tesla's solar and storage installs since Q1 2019
|Q1 2019||Q2 2019||Q3 2019||Q4 2019||Q1 2020||Quarter-on-quarter||Year-on-year|
|Solar deployed (MW)||47||29||43||54||35||-35%||-26%|
|Storage deployed (MWh)||229||415||477||530||260||-51%||14%|
ENGIE enacts staff insurance, supplier aid and pay cuts in three-pronged plan
4 May 2020: French energy major ENGIE has adopted new COVID-19 response measures including social security coverage, relief for its partner suppliers and pay cuts at its very top.
Last week, the group said it will cover hospital expenses and life insurance for COVID-19 and other conditions, set aside €250 million to “speed up payments” for its smaller suppliers and enact a 15% pay reduction for the 13 people sitting on its executive committee and board of directors.
Brazil confirms essential status of power plant supply, operation and maintenance
4 May 2020: Energy power plant operators are to be regarded as essential services as Brazil works to contain the COVID-19 emergency, the government has confirmed.
A new decree passed last week includes “supply for the operation and maintenance of the generating plants and of the energy transmission and distribution systems and the respective engineering works” amongst activities allowed to continue running during the lockdown.