Global solar survey lays out path to post-pandemic recovery

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Financial aid and the slimming of planning bureaucracy have emerged as the unsurprising top asks of solar firms filling in a global survey documenting COVID-19’s main impacts so far.

A poll launched by the Global Solar Council earlier in April sought to map out the effects respondents had seen from the pandemic on their operations, as well as the measures they felt governments could enact to help the sector at this time.

Of all 326 firms taking part (see table below), nearly half (48%) believe solar tax relief would be the most effective method of support at this point, followed by other forms of dedicated state financing (42%), tax credits (38%) and non-refundable loans or aid (37%).

The respondent base – hailing from 62 countries, EMEA [Europe, the Middle East and Africa] for the most part – also pointed at regulatory simplification, with 20% calling for measures including tapping into digitalisation to trim bureaucracy and the easing of financial regulations.

The survey found most respondents have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak at varying degrees. Nearly 75%, for instance, said they had generally witnessed “difficulties” to supply goods or services compared to the status quo before the pandemic.

A similar share (71.2%) claimed to have seen a drop in orders for goods and services including project construction, solar components and others. Of that 71.2%, most (6 in 10 respondents) reported a fall of up to 50%, while others pointed at 50-90% (3 in 10) and >90% (1 in 10) drops.

The 326 respondents of GSC’s COVID-19 survey

Solar segment Geographic area
Design of PV plants 6.7% EMEA 71%
PV distributors 4.3% APAC 20%
Energy trading and/or sales 4.6% Americas 9%
EPC – General contractor – O&M 13.3%
PV plant installers 16.1%
PV manufacturers 7.9%
Plant developers 13.4%
PV consultants 8.2%
Other 25.5%
Source: Global Solar Council

“It is clear that PV companies are suffering heavily at the moment from the severe disruption,” said Global Solar Council chair Gianni Chianetta. He called on governments to foster green energy funding to ensure the crisis gives rise to what he described as a “new, green economy”.

At 57%, the largest area of concern for those polled was work and site access restrictions, with challenges ranging from shortages of fuel to travel and accommodation limitations, curfews and mobility struggles for activities that require a site visit.

Demand and orders (35%) appeared to be another top worry. Some respondents listed difficulties in securing new contracts from increasingly cautious clients, who – as one of the polled firms noted – are “not in a period of decision-making”. At 18%, supply chain issues ranked some way behind.

Researchers have warned over the past few weeks of potential price hikes for renewable components, amid a backdrop of foreign exchange volatility. Nearly 40% of those polled by the Council reported raises in supply prices, with most (5 in 10) noting increases of 10% or less.

The 320-plus respondents appeared to expect COVID-19’s impacts to remain in the short-term. Seven-in-ten said they felt difficulties to supply goods or services would stay in the coming four months, with eight-in-ten predicting orders would decline further over the same period.

COVID-19’s global spread has brought disruption to solar markets worldwide, as documented daily by PV Tech’s trackers. Part of the discussion is now moving, however, to the role renewables can play in the economic recovery.

PV Tech has set up a dedicated 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 jrojo@solarmedia.co.uk or lstoker@solarmedia.co.uk.

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