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

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

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Industry looks to virtual conferences to engage businesses during Covid-19 lock down, calls for Morrison to end fossil fuel stimulus.

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Source: Tilt Renewables.
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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]

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: The Energy Efficiency Council has announced two new events that will be held via webinar in April, to facilitate ongoing engagement with the sector.

On 30 April, the EEC will host ClimateWorks Australia CEO Anna Skarbek to discuss ClimateWork’s latest Decarbonisation Futures report. Registrations are available here.

You can also here Anna Skarbek’s interview with the Energy Insiders podcast here.

On 21 April, the EEC will also host a member only webinar with NABERS director Carlos Flores.

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.

Wednesday, April 8: Australia’s main energy regulators and rule-makers have cited the Covid-19 pandemic as a reason to defer the implementation crucial energy market reforms, including the 5-minute settlement rule, one of the biggest and most fundamental reforms of the country’s electricity market that was designed to stop widespread rorting of prices and to benefit clean energy technologies. Read more here…

Wednesday, April 8: The Clean Energy Council has called on governments to continue their support for the clean energy sector. Following a record-breaking year for the sector in 2019, the industry body has argued that the Covid-19 crisis represents an opportunity for increased investment in clean energy to help bring Australia through a tough economic environment, as well as tackling climate change.

Wednesday, April 8: In New Zealand, the energy utility TrustPower reports that national electricity demand is down around 15 per cent on pre Covid-19 levels, with high mass market demand, and record data demand, more than offset by lower commercial and industrial demand. Wholesale electricity prices are also softer as a result.

Tuesday, April 7: While environmental groups have sought to keep the pressure on governments to act on climate change, energy market expert from Boston University, Peter Fox-Penner, has warned the global economic impact of Covid-19 could slow the transition to clean energy. Fox-Penner suggests that falling energy demand and a collapse in the global oil price could slow the momentum in the clean energy sector.

Tuesday, April 7: With Covid-19 imposing new social distancing requirements, companies reliant on face-to-face sales have been forced to adapt their businesses. This includes the solar sector, which has started to interact with customers virtually, conducting sales via online platforms like Zoom and Facebook. Read more here…

Monday, April 6: In the wake of the economic fall-out triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, vehicle sales have crashed; except for EVs and hybrid vehicles. As reported in The Driven, electric vehicle sales bucked the trend, with private electric and PHEV passenger sales (excluding Tesla sales data) have almost double what they were 12-months prior. Meanwhile, the FCAI said overall car and SUV sales fell 17.9 per cent when compared to March 2019.

Monday, April 6: Former leader of the federal Liberal party, turned climate change campaigner John Hewson has penned a strongly worded opinion piece, warning climate change deniers that the current Covid-19 crisis only makes the need to act on climate change even more urgent.

“Sorry to be the harbinger of denier disappointment, but there is every reason to expect that the virus crisis will strengthen and accelerate the imperative to transition to a low-carbon world by mid-century,” Hewson writes.

Monday, April 6: Some of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies have used the Covid-19 as cover to lobby for a massive relaxation of environmental regulations and direct financial support from governments. UK-based think tank InfluenceMap found that oil and gas companies were the most active in their lobbying efforts, targeting climate and energy deregulation and financial interventions. Oil execs succeeded in securing a meeting with the Trump administration to demand a lifting of vehicle emissions standards.

Friday, April 3: The world’s biggest solar conference and exhibition, the SNEC trade show due to take place in Shanghai in less than two months’ time, has been postponed due to the Covid-19 crisis. “Though we have devoted a lot of manpower and resources in the preparation of the exhibition, we have to postpone the event as the health and safety of all exhibitors and participants are of the highest priority for us,” the event’s organisers said.

Friday, April 3: Some good news out of France, with the government selecting around 1.7 GW of wind and solar projects from a range of recent tenders, and approved commissioning extensions due to the Covid-19 situation. A total of 288 renewable energy projects were selected for development – 253 of which were solar projects.

“The health crisis that we are going through must not in any way make us give up the ambitious objectives in terms of development of renewable energies in the multi-annual energy programming,” France’s ecology minister Elisabeth Borne said.

Thursday, April 2: The crucial COP 26 UN due to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, in November this year have been postponed as governments to focus efforts on the immediate response to Covid-19. The postponement, announce by the UK government and the UNFCCC on Wednesday, is not entirely unexpected, but environmental groups have stressed that governments, including Australia’s, must not use it as an opportunity to evade meaningful action on climate change. Read more here…

Thursday, April 2: Another international energy auction has been put off until less uncertain times, this time in Brazil. PV Magazine reports that the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy (MEM) announced the postponement of the national energy generation and transmission auctions, with no new date specified. Solar projects had been expected to bid in two auctions that had been planned.

Thursday, April 2: Smart Energy Council chief John Grimes has warned rooftop solar companies to “get deadly serious” about adopting measures to prevent the spread of infection of Covid-19 if they hope to continue to operate. In an industry webinar discussing how Australia’s rooftop solar industry could continue to operate during the Coronavirus lock-down – presuming the sector is not also compelled to shut down – Grimes warned companies must “go all-in” on strict infection control measures.

“Those companies that take this crisis the most seriously are likely to … be the same companies that are going to survive,” Grimes said, referring to the economy-wide downturn that will inevitably follow the Coronavirus shut-down. “Go all in, get deadly serious,” he added. “You’ve actually got no choice. Otherwise, you might as well shut up shop and see where we’re going to be in three month’s time.”

Wednesday, April 1: Leading renewables body WindEurope has urged governments to help ensure the production of critical wind turbine components continues through the COVID-19 crisis, Renews.Biz reports. In a statement, WindEurope expressed concern at the “reaching impact” the crisis was having on the EU wind energy supply chain.

“Governments have rightfully taken steps to ensure that the operation and maintenance of wind farms continues across Europe,” the statement said. “However, national governments need to also allow for essential manufacturing processes to continue, in particular for the production of components without which global wind energy supply chains will grind to a halt.”

Meanwhile, in South Africa, state-owned electricity utility Eskom has issued a “force majeur” to operators of some independent wind-power plants, informing them that it won’t need their power at certain times of day due to lower demand amid a national Covid-19 shutdown, Bloomberg reports. A spokesperson for the utility said that the amount of power generated from wind was at its highest early in the morning, when Eskom’s need was lowest.

“We have issued some force majeures to the wind generators,” Eksom’s Sikonathi Mantshantsha said by phone. “We have told them if need be for a few hours every few days we may not take your power.”

Wednesday, April 1: The sale of the Australian renewable energy assets of global infrastructure giant John Laing looks to have been put on hold until the second half of 2020. As RenewEconomy reported in early March, the UK-based John Laing confirmed plans to offload its solar and wind assets and quit the Australian market entirely, after a year of project delays and transmission losses. But reports emerged on Wednesday that bidders have been told by Macquarie Capital that any auction will now likely take place in the second half of the year, when market conditions settle. Read more here…

Wednesday, April 1: As Australia’s rooftop solar industry braces for a full shut-down in response to Covid-19, signs of strife are emerging in the US after major residential oufit Sungevity let go of hundreds of employees last week, citing coronavirus fallout. GreenTech Media reports that Sungevity eliminated 387 positions, according to a filing with California’s Employment Development Department, and attributed the mass layoffs to “business conditions and the COVID-19 outbreak.”

Tuesday, March 31: Portugal has hit pause on its planned solar auction targeting 700 MW, putting the process on hold, reports Renewables Now, “until markets calm down following the Covid-19 pandemic.” The auction is one to watch for Portugal, in that it will be the nation’s first to include a storage option, whether it is solar plus battery, concentrated solar power (CSP), solar PV plus CSP, or other combinations, the report says.

Tuesday, March 31: The Clean Energy Council says it will continue to make a case for Australia’s rooftop solar industry to continue operating during the Covid-19 lock-down, but that increasingly tight restrictions could soon see it shut down.

In an interview with One Step Off The Grid on Wednesday, CEO Kane Thornton said an industry webinar the day before had focused on what lay ahead for household and commercial installers, and what measures they should be putting in place, now, to install PV systems safely. He said there was a fair bit of anxiety, and a lot of questions coming from the industry – but also pockets of optimism.

Monday, March 30: Another grim forecast for the impact of Covid-19 on the global renewable energy market this week, this time from Norway-based analyst group Rystad Energy. As Giles Parkinson reports here, Rystad has all-but written off its forecasts for large-scale wind and solar growth in 2020 due to the impact of the global pandemic and cut its forecasts for 2021 by around 10 per cent.

The study warns Australia could be hit particularly hard, as one of a group of countries where the currency has declined sharply against the US dollar, and where capital costs of planned renewable energy projects could rise by more than one third. “The full extent of the impact of Covid-19 on the renewable energy market is just beginning to reveal itself,” says report author and Rystad senior vice president Gero Farruggio.

Monday, March 30: ASX-listed wind energy developer Tilt Renewables has had to suspend construction of its New Zealand Waipip wind farm for two weeks, due to measures introduced to minimise the spread of the Coronavirus. The Market Herald reports that the New Zealand project is not considered an essential service and has therefore drawn to a halt under the NZ government’s mandated lockdown measures.

Both countries’ travel bans have also limited Tilt’s ability to move personnel to and fro across the ditch, the company said, but it managing this development by using locally sourced expertise. It says that the relatively short shut-down period should not alter the completion date set for the Waipip project.

Tilt operates seven wind farms across Australia and New Zealand as is building another two, including Waipip in NZ and Dundonnell in Australia, which started sending power to the grid in Victoria earlier this month. Tilt notes that its operating energy services are classified as essential and therefore have not been interrupted.

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.

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