As the COVID-19 situation changes on an almost hourly basis, 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]
Friday, April 24: Oil isn’t the only fossil fuel having a hard time of it during the Coronavirus pandemic. According to Wood Mackenzie coal analyst Matthew Preston, coal demand in the US in 2020 is down between 35 and 40% from last year – “and last year wasn’t a great year.”
As Preston explains to NPR, that’s essentially because coal power generation is more expensive than gas, wind or solar, so is the first to suffer when demand is down. And demand is certainly down. As with oil, lower demand translates to an excess inventory, which is also forcing some coal mining companies to shut down.
“We’re seeing coal production numbers and power generation numbers from coal going back to roughly late 1960s, mid-1970s levels,” said Andrew Blumenfeld, an IHS Markit research analyst. And the big question is, is it likely to bounce back?
Friday, April 24: The US solar rooftop industry is adapting the Coronavirus market with some novel marketing ploys, Greentech Media reports. Sunrun, for example, has introduced lease contract offer that asks no money upfront and just $1 each month for the first six months. And California finacier, Sustainable Capital Finance, has unveiled a “Solar Stimulus PPA,” which charges nothing for solar energy for the first year of its 15- to 30-year term.
Friday, April 24: Clearer skies – thanks in part to there being much less pollution during the Covid-19 shutdown – have helped to deliver a new solar generation record for the UK. According to live data from the Sheffield Solar Live PV tracker – which is run by the University of Sheffield – solar generation reached a peak and new record high of 9.68GW at around 12:30pm on Monday the 20th of April, meeting almost 30% of UK electricity demand at the time. Read more here…
Wednesday, April 22: The International Renewable Energy Agency’s first Global Renewables Outlook predicts strong clean energy stimulus measures could achieve both the net zero emissions goals of the Paris Agreement, while also generating benefits of an extra $100 trillion ($A159 trillion) to global GDP above business as usual. Read more here…
Wednesday, April 22: A GE-owned wind power manufacturing plant in the mid-western American state of North Dakota has been hit by an outbreak of Covid-19, forcing the factory to close, temporarily.
CNBC reports that the plant was closed last week after eight workers tested positive for the novel Coronavirus. North Dakota’s Department of Health has since confirmed 110 Covid-19 cases in people connected to the LM Wind Power plant in Grand Forks, including both employees and “their close contacts.” In a statement, a spokesperson for GE said the facility would remain closed for at least two weeks to “conduct an extensive disinfection process.”
Wednesday, April 22: US Nasdaq-listed solar manufacturer SunPower Corporation has announced via a filing with the SEC that it has temporarily halted production of panels at all of its factories around the world, citing weak demand during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The company said its factories in France, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, and the U.S. had all been idled and that it would meet current levels of customer demand using “existing inventory.” The company also said it had an “expectation” that the idled factories would “come back online in the coming weeks.”
Tuesday, April 21: The global oil market crash-landed in uncharted territory this week when the cost of the fossil fuel in the US went into negative territory and forced companies to pay up to $US36 ($A57) a barrel just to have it taken off their hands.
The phenomenon known is as contango, which sounds like a Latin dance but is where futures prices are higher than spot prices. It is a signal of a combination of oversupply and weak demand – but with the added peculiarities of oil market trading thrown in for good measure. The upshot? Don’t expect to be paid to fill up your car, but it could speed up the shift to low-carbon energy. Read more here…
Tuesday, April 21: Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas has revealed plans to trim its workforce by around 10 per cent – or up to 400 empployees – as the economic crunch triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic sees new orders beginning to dry up.
Monday, April 20: Australian researchers are warning that governments and powerful business lobby groups may use the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to water down environmental controls, with the fossil fuel industry most likely to take advantage.
Friday, April 17: One of the biggest renewable energy industry events on Australia’s calendar, the Smart Energy Council Conference and Exhibition, has been cancelled altogether for 2020. SEC chief John Grimes said on Friday that the decision to cancel the event – originally scheduled to take place this month and then postponed until September – had been made with “deep regret,” but was the right call. Read more here…
Friday, April 17: Norway-based global energy analyst group Rystad has forecast that up to 3GW of large-scale wind and solar projects could be delayed in Australia as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and its impact on the local currency, debt markets, and appetite for new investments. RenewEconomy editor Giles Parkinson reports…
Thursday, April 16: The International Energy Agency (IEA) said this week that it expects the coronavirus to erase almost a decade of oil demand growth in 2020, as countries around the world effectively shut down in response to the pandemic. “Even assuming that travel restrictions are eased in the second half of the year, we expect that global oil demand in 2020 will fall by 9.3 million barrels a day versus 2019, erasing almost a decade of growth,” the IEA said.
Thursday, April 16: US energy consumption has seen a “dramatic drop” due to Coronavirus shut-downs, according to analysts at the Edison Electric Institute (EEI). The World Economic Forum reports that in the first week of April, power usage fell 5.7% from the same week in 2019 and was the lowest in a week since April 2004. The EEI predicts total US energy consumption to fall by 3% in 2020.
America’s clean energy jobs have also taken a big hit, with a new analysis of US Department of Labor data found that 106,472 workers in clean energy occupations filed for unemployment benefits in March, essentially cancelling out all of the 2019 clean energy job gains across renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean vehicles, energy storage and clean fuels. Industry week reports that these jobs included electricians, solar installers, wind industry engineers and technicians and manufacturing workers employed by electric and other clean- vehicle manufacturing companies and suppliers.
Wednesday, April 15: Greece has joined a growing list of countries whose governments have extended the deadlines for renewable energy projects in recognition of development delays and other hurdles presented by the Coronavirus.
Renewablesnow.com reports the extensions were among measures listed in a legislative act issued by the President of Greece, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, last week. They give developers an extra six months’ breathing room on installation licences and final grid-connection agreements for renewable energy and combined heat and power (CHP) projects set to expire before or on June 30.
Tuesday, April 14: New analysis from CarbonBrief has forecast that the global response to the Coronavirus will deliver the largest ever annual fall in carbon emissions – but has also warned that even this would not come close to bringing the 1.5°C global temperature limit within reach.
“Global emissions would need to fall by more than 6% every year this decade – more than 2,200MtCO2 annually – in order to limit warming to less than 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures,” CarbonBrief said late last week.
“To put it another way, atmospheric carbon levels are expected to increase again this year, even if CO2 emissions cuts are greater still. Rising CO2 concentrations – and related global warming – will only stabilise once annual emissions reach net-zero.”
Tuesday, April 14: Meanwhile, Japan’s environment minister has warned that a post-Covid 19 economic recovery plan without a strong focus on climate action would all but kill off any hope of meeting global targets.
“It would virtually mean the death of the Paris accord if we gave priority unconditionally to economic recovery, while neglecting the environment,” Koizumi told Reuters in an interview. “No one at the environment ministry disagrees that the economy is important. We just would like to behave in a way that ensures the environment will never be left behind,” he said.
Tuesday, April 14: Portugal has waved through 30MW of small renewables projects to begin production immediately, as a provisional measure during the Covid-19 pandemic. Portugal’s minister for environment and climate, Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes, has given the all-clear to a total of 220 projects with capacity below 1MW, to begin generating power immediately without having to wait for final approvals.
Renewables Now reports that the decision meant small- and self-consumption renewable energy producers would not be held back anymore, as they had been when a state of emergency was declared in response to the spread of the coronavirus.
Thursday, April 9: UNSW Professor of political philosophy Jeremy Moss has called on the Morrison government to end its “fossil fuel stimulus”, saying that now is the right time to end subsidies to the fossil fuel sector and to direct increased resources to the development of the clean energy sector. Read more here…
Thursday, April 9: Leading global solar module manufacturer SolarEdge has announced that it is planning a “virtual solar show” to be held on the week starting 15 June, allowing the company and partners to present new equipment and offer training.
“Always looking for creative solutions to overcome obstacles, whether overcoming technology challenges or driving the industry forward under the present circumstances, SolarEdge has decided to use our leadership position to ensure that the solar community has an exciting opportunity to mobilize during this challenging period,” SolarEdge marketing VP Lior Handelsman said.
SolarEdge is currently taking registrations for the virtual conference here.
RESOURCE: To catch up on last week’s Covid-19 blog, click here…
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.
RenewEconomy and its sister sites One Step Off The Grid and The Driven will continue to publish throughout the Covid-19 crisis, posting good news about technology and project development, and holding government, regulators and business to account. But as the conference market evaporates, and some advertisers pull in their budgets, readers can help by making a voluntary donation here to help ensure we can continue to offer the service free of charge and to as wide an audience as possible. Thankyou for your support.