Covid-19 live blog: Clean energy industry impact, stories from the field, useful links | RenewEconomy

Covid-19 live blog: Clean energy industry impact, stories from the field, useful links

Poland pushes even harder against EU climate goals as Coronavirus takes toll; First Solar says all its global manufacturing plants have so far avoided virus closures.

Source: Pacific Hydro Facebook

As the COVID-19 situation changes on an almost hourly basis – and advice varies depending which government you listen to – RenewEconomy and its sister sites One Step Off The Grid and The Driven will do our best to keep our readers up to date on the impact of the novel Coronavirus on the renewable energy industry in Australia and around the world.

We’ll provide links to useful resources for businesses during what could be a very hard time for some, so keep an eye out.

And we would also like to share any relevant personal/professional experiences, nuggets of hard-won advice, or tips from the experts. So if you have any of those, please drop us a line and let us know.

And if there’s anything we’ve missed, or you have some other tips, please do let us know about that, too, at [email protected]

RenewEconomy will continue to publish throughout the crisis, posting good news about technology and project development, and keeping government, regulators and business to account. But as the conference market evaporates, and advertisers pull in their budgets, you can help by making a voluntary donation to the business here so we can continue to offer the service free of charge.

Friday, March 27: Poland – Europe’s problem child which, like Australia, still relies heavily on coal-fired power stations – is pushing back even harder against the European Union’s climate goals as the impact of the coronavirus starts to bite.

As Reuters reports, Poland is the only EU nation yet to commit to the bloc’s net zero emissions by 2050 target and has called for the EU to scrap its emissions trading scheme, or exempt Poland from it. This week Poland’s climate ministry made a new appeal for leniency, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“As a consequence of this crisis our economies will be weaker, companies will not have enough funds to invest, completion of some important energy projects may be delayed or even suspended,” it told Reuters. “These are real problems that we will be facing soon and achievement of our climate goals will be even more difficult because of them.”

Friday, March 27: Some positive news this morning, with US PV manufacturer First Solar revealing that its manufacturing operations have not been yet affected been by measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 in the locations in which it has production lines. PV Magazine reports that First Solar’s production lines in Ohio, Malaysia and Vietnam have thus far been able to carry on operations, with measures in place to protect workers.

Thursday, March 26: As Australian states hurtle towards stage 3 lockdowns in response to Covid-19, RenewEconomy sister site One Step Off The Grid asks the experts to list the top energy efficiency measures households can take to stop their bills going through the roof.

Thursday, March 26: International carbon prices have tumbled amid fears that a Covid-19 induced economic downturn will curb industry demand for carbon allowances, says RepuTex. But is the Australian market innoculated from the virus?

Thursday, March 26: As painful as it might be, the Covid-19 crisis will have important lessons for Australia’s energy sector, says Mark Byrne. Lesson one: The current structure and governance of the electricity market in Australia is not fit for purpose to meet known and unknown challenges.

Thursday, March 26: America’s wind and solar industries have been left out of a $US2 trillion economic stimulus package released by the federal government in response to the Coronavirus, leaving them exposed to project delays that could see them missing out on vital government incentives. The exclusion of renewables is no great surprise; US President Donald Trump is no a fan of wind energy, nor is he supportive of the Democrats Green New Deal, which on Wednesday he variously described as “nonsense” and “ridiculous.”

Recharge News reports that the American Wind Energy Association has warned that 35,000 jobs and $43 billion of investment are at stake it the wind sector alone. “While we’re disappointed clean energy sector relief did not make it into the phase three stimulus package, we will continue working with Congress and other renewable energy leaders to find solutions to the specific challenges Covid-19 is causing,” the AWEA said.

Thursday, March 26: The market for unsubsidised large-scale solar projects in Europe is threatening to grind to a halt amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to German energy advisory Enervis. PV Magazine reports that the impacts of the virus-driven economic slowdown were already visible, with solar projects linked to power purchase agreements facing delays.

With current spot price … levels in European markets, there is hardly any subsidy-free business model left,” Senior consultant Tim Steinert told PV Mag. “If you compare current wholesale prices to full costs of the projects, you won’t see any market where a subsidy-free business model is still working in current market conditions. This will hopefully change again by end of this year [or the] beginning of next year.”

Steinert has forecast that the current market environment will put most of Europe’s unsubsidised PV development pipeline on hold, drying up the signing of PPAs this year, and possibly next year too. “We hope to see an ease from the end of this year and the beginning of next year but we don’t know yet how power prices driven by demand, CO2 and gas prices will develop in the next months,” he said.

Wednesday, March 25: Can solar isolate itself from Covid-19? Giles Parkinson and Nigel Morris discuss the impact the Coronavirus is having on supply and demand in the Australian rooftop PV market, in the latest edition of RenewEconomy’s Solar Insiders podcast.

Wednesday, March 25: After flying off the shelf in 2019, the March allocation of the Victorian government’s home solar rebates has barely shifted. Is this a sign of Covid-19 hitting demand?

Wednesday, March 25: Will the lights stay on through the pandemic? Australia’s energy companies are ramping up protections for key operational workers at Australia’s largest power stations and may go as far as total isolation of staff in a bid to protect power supplies from the spread of Covid-19. Michael Mazengarb reports here…

Wednesday, March 25: India’s government has given the green light to the nation’s renewable energy developers to invoke force majeure clauses if projects are delayed due to problems caused by the coronavirus.

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy said in a statement that the “disruption of the supply chains due to spread of coronavirus in China or any other country should be considered as a case of natural calamity and the force majeure clause may be invoked, wherever considered appropriate, following the due procedure.” The ministry added that it has been receiving requests to grant time extensions to projects as a result of the coronavirus.

Wednesday, March 25: Bloomberg New Energy Finance was pretty upbeat about the outlook for the global wind industry in its Covid-19 report last week, but no so Wood Mackenzie. Recharge News says the respected analyst group has forecast that the global wind energy industry is facing “a crisis unlike anything it’s ever seen” due to coronavirus impacts. Its forecast for 2020 installations has been trimmed accordingly, with a total of 73GW of new turbines projected to be installed this year, down 4.9GW on previous estimates.

“The impact of the coronavirus is top of mind for the global wind industry and embodies a crisis unlike anything the market has ever seen,” said Dan Shreve, Wood Mackenzie head of global wind energy research. “The state of the pandemic is evolving on an hourly basis, resulting in a highly reactionary environment. Industry stakeholders are continually adapting business operations to balance worker safety with the needs of their clients, all while complying with dynamic government containment measures.”

Tuesday, March 24: The Clean Energy Council has added its voice to calls for Australia’s national Covid-19 response to include support for projects that will deliver long-term benefits, such as rooftop solar, batteries, and micro-grids. Giles Parkinson reports here…

Tuesday, March 24: Local government approval of a $300 million, 200MW solar farm in Victoria’s Loddon Shire appears to have been set back by at least a month after a council meeting was cancelled due to the Coronavirus.

The Raywood solar farm was on the Loddon Shire Council’s agenda for Tuesday, with a recommendation to approve development of the South Energy project. The council has since decided to adjourn the meeting in keeping with state government orders around the containment of Covid-19. Read more here…

Tuesday, March 24: Is there a better way to respond to Covid-19? Economist Matt Grudnoff talks to Energy Insiders’ Giles Parkinson and David Leitch on why the federal government stimulus package should lock in secondary benefits – the type you get from renewables.

Tuesday, March 24: Danish wind giant Vestas has restarted operations at one of its blade factories in Spain, after coronavirus measures were approved by local health authorities, Wind Power Monthly reports. The measures were put in place by Vestas after the plant was brought to a virtual stand-still as workers downed tools in protest against what they said were inadequate safeguards against the virus.

Tuesday, March 24: Britain’s Crown Estate has postponed round 4 of its offshore wind leasing program, pushing out the first stage of the invitation to tender (ITT) to the end of the month and extending the submission window from seven to ten weeks to give bidders “additional time to respond” during the Coronavirus pandemic. As Recharge News reports, the tender aims to underpin development of another 7GW of offshore wind energy projects in UK waters by 2030.

In Germany, meanwhile, Wind Power Monthly reports that onshore wind energy auctions would continue to go ahead as scheduled, according to the nation’s energy agency Bundesnetzagentur (BNA). The result of those auctions will be withheld, however, until the spread of Covid-19 has calmed down, due to the fact that publication of the results triggers the clock for the completion of these projects.

Monday, March 23: As Covid-19 begins to bite, economically, it’s time to think what we could build or do now which that would have benefits down the line, writes RenewEconomy editor Giles Parkinson. “One of the obvious answers, say economists from The Australia Institute, is in sustainable infrastructure.”

Monday, March 23: Fun fact, we here at RenewEconomy have lives beyond clean energy! (sometimes) Here are some tips from our digital marketing manager Sam Parkinson on how to foster human connection while praciticing social isolation.

Monday, March 23: Steven Percy and Bruce Mountain from the Victoria Energy Policy Centre look at energy demand shifts as workers shift to working from home, or lose their jobs altogether.

Monday, March 23: Spanish wind energy company Siemens Gamesa confirmed has shut two of its manufacturing facilities had shut in Spain, after two separate cases of the novel Coronavirus were detected among its factory workers. Concerns of a hit to supply of wind turbine parts are being measured against concerns that a major economic slowdown will hit demand just as badly, if not worse.

Monday, March 23: A renewable energy auction planned for late last week in Abu Dhabi for the rights to develop the 1.5GW Al-Dhafra solar field in Abu Dhabi has reportedly been postponed due to Coronavirus-related restrictions on public gatherings in the emirate. Hopes were high that the project would bring in a new low price for solar power generation, PV Mag says.

Monday, March 23: A message from an Australian rooftop solar supplier’s perspective: Supply Partners’ director Lliam Ricketts said on Facebook on Monday that it was business as usual at his company’s warehouses across Australia, with plenty of supplies in stock. “We are in a great industry that is tied to an essential service, being electricity, so keep positive out there,” Ricketts said.

Friday, March 20: Michael Mazengarb reports that following the Friday meeting of energy ministers, a new Energy Coordination Mechanism will be established as a weekly forum for senior leaders within regulators and the energy industry to oversee the energy market’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“The Coronavirus is presenting challenges across the economy and it is important that energy retailers have plans in place to help their customers and ensure they get the information, services and support they need,” federal energy minister Angus Taylor said following the meeting.

Friday, March 20: Smart Energy Council-hosted webinar teases out how the Coronavirus is affecting the Australian rooftop solar industry so far – and it’s not all bad news. From the basics of how to install using proper social distancing protocol, to how to market your products in this new, unchartered territory.

“Operate in a way that your staff don’t become infected. Protect your people,” SEC CEO John Grimes said. “Deliver your service and make sure that you’re not going to infect your customers – and ensure they are not scared that you will infect them. Read more…

RESOURCE: The Smart Energy Council has a good What You Need To Know page for the industry on its website, and it’s worth keeping an eye out for their webinars, which are a great source of information and reassurance.

RESOURCE: The Clean Energy Council has a page dedicated to Resources for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19 which is a good way to keep track of the latest industry-relevant government announcements and support packages.

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