Covid-19 weekly briefing: A cold wind for APAC renewables, respite for Indian developers and another salary cut for SunPower execs

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The more eagle-eyed among our readers will have noted our Covid-19 news round-up has switched from daily to weekly, as of today, as we felt a weekly crunch of the coronavirus issues affecting the industry might be more helpful. We will endeavor to include links to Covid-19-related coverage from across our sister websites so you can click through to read in more depth, if desired.

American-owned analyst Wood Mackenzie today predicted an extended, Covid-19-driven recession could delay 150 GW of solar and wind projects across the Asia-Pacific region  – two years of the region’s clean energy project pipeline. Governments have been reducing incentives due to the success of renewables but WoodMac analysts say that approach may have to be halted as plunging fossil fuel prices could mean renewables fall short of grid parity until after 2025. The market intelligence firm acknowledged, however, governments will have plenty of other demands on public purses, especially given falling power demand linked to Covid-19 abatement measures is resulting in oversupply of electricity. An extended coronavirus-linked recession beyond this year could see 1,000 TWh of power demand lost by 2023 in a region which provided more than three-quarters of demand growth from 2015 to last year. Rising finance costs could also hamper renewables, particularly in India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, with WoodMac estimating a 10% rise in capital costs could lead to an 8% rise in the cost of electricity generated from renewables.

India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has told solar project developers deadlines for completing projects in time to receive incentives which expire during the Covid-19 lockdown will be extended 30 days beyond the point at which the coronavirus measures are lifted.

SunPower response

French-owned U.S. solar manufacturer SunPower yesterday announced further measures to reduce expense in response to the Covid-19 crisis. The San Jose-based company said it would idle factories in France, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines and the U.S. and would reduce hours for some employees. Senior executives will have to shoulder a deeper pay cut than the one announced on March 25, with president Tom Werner and CEO Jeffrey Waters to have their salaries temporarily halved and other senior staff taking a 35% hit. The company, which has French energy giant Total as its main shareholder, still intends to split off its high efficiency solar module business into a separate entity – Maxeon Solar Technologies – by the end of June.

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London-based business intelligence company Future Market Insights yesterday warned the Covid-19 impact on China’s battery and automotive manufacturing industries could knock a million units off sales this year. The analysts said coronavirus-related delays in production and delivery would be compounded by the fact many electric vehicle purchasers are first-time buyers and thus more readily put off investing in the new tech against predicted economic turbulence caused by the pandemic.

The Covid-19 lockdown in the U.K. has led to falling air pollution which helped the nation to a record amount of solar generation on Monday. Industry body the Solar Trade Association (STA) reported yesterday the live PV generation tracker operated by Sheffield University had recorded 9.68 GW of solar generation at around 12:30pm on Monday, topping the 9.55 GW peak seen on May 13 last year. The STA said Monday’s peak supplied almost 30% of national electric demand at that point.

Tomorrow’s world

In a similar vein, British analyst Cornwall Insight has said falling energy demand in Great Britain during the Covid-19 lockdown has offered a glimpse into the renewables-driven energy pricing of the future. The analyst, based in Norwich, England, yesterday reported a proliferation in negative hourly energy prices has occurred this month. With the first negative, hourly, day-ahead wholesale energy price in Britain recorded in December, 13 more have occurred this year, with 69% of them this month, due to a combination of lower power demand amid the coronavirus lockdown and rising generation from intermittent renewables – chiefly wind in Britain. The negative prices included a record -£19/MWh (-$23.43) on April 5, according to Cornwall Insight, which predicts pricing will rise as lockdown restrictions are eased and wind generation reduces in the summer. “The recent shock to demand amid the Covid-19 outbreak has perhaps brought us forward to what we might have expected to observe in the future when renewables make up a greater proportion of generation,” said Tim Dixon, wholesale team lead at Cornwall Insight.

Australian industry body the Smart Energy Council (SEC) was yesterday forced to cancel its flagship annual event because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Smart Energy Conference and Exhibition in Sydney was last month postponed from April 7-8 to September 29-30 but has now been cancelled entirely.

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Read pv magazine’s coverage of Covid-19; and tell us how it is affecting your solar and energy storage operations. Email editors@pv-magazine.com to share your experiences.

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