While the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to make life tough for businesses offering non-essential services, solar power provides electricity, a commodity everyone needs, and Norwegian PV developer Scatec Solar has reported no impact from the outbreak on its operating solar projects or delivery of power.
The company today said it considers the Covid-19 risk for its business low and expects first-quarter production to be in line with previous guidance. “As electricity production is a necessity in both normal and extraordinary times, we, as a company, [are] shielded from some of the negative effects many other businesses are facing,” said Scatec CEO Raymond Carlsen in a statement this morning.
The developer said power supply is defined as critical infrastructure in most countries and, as such, production and maintenance continue as usual. The company sells the power generated from its global portfolio of solar plants to state-owned utilities, normally backed by government guarantees under long term, fixed-price contracts. U.S. dollars, Malaysian ringgit and South African rand are the predominant currencies which will bring the company expected cash flows of more than NOK60 billion ($5.51 billion) over the next 20 years.
Work in progress?
The situation is somewhat different, however, for Scatec Solar projects which are still under construction. The developer said travel constraints and local regulations introduced in response to Covid-19 have started to affect the construction, commissioning and testing of some of its new solar plants. The company said it was too early to predict what effect such measures would have on completion dates.
Since Covid-19 tightened its grip, mixed reports have emerged about the effect of the viral outbreak on solar markets. While PV manufacturing operations are reportedly beginning to return to normal in China, questions remain unanswered about the effect on demand.
Analysts at business intelligence firms Bloomberg New Energy Finance, PV InfoLink and IHS Markit say a significant contraction in demand is likely this year, however some companies have reported record sales with consumers reportedly panic buying solar and storage to shore themselves up in uncertain times.
Project deadlines have been relaxed as developers in some countries report a complete standstill on the ground. In France and Germany, the governments are responding to a call from solar developers by adjusting tender schemes and considering measures to avoid financial penalties and the loss of incentives due to missed deadlines.
Solar companies are united in the measures brought in to ensure staff safety, such as home working, social distancing and non-contact shift changes. At Scatec Solar, precautionary measures are being taken at all locations to limit the spread of the virus and ensure continued operation of power plants.
“We all have a joint responsibility to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, to protect the health of our employees, their families and society at large,” Carlsen said. “At the same time, we are implementing all necessary measures to ensure continued delivery of much needed power to our customers.”
With few operators needed on the ground and all solar plants remotely monitored and supported by Scatec’s global control and monitoring center in Cape Town, South Africa, the developer is confident of maintaining operations. Should things go south, Scatec Solar added, it has robust contingency plans in place to mitigate any operational issues.
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