Covid-19 weekly round-up: US job losses raise concern but France and China continued to add new solar


The U.S. state of North Carolina’s significant number of big solar projects means the anticipated shortfall in expected PV industry jobs this month, as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, is only 19%, compared to a national average of 38%, according to figures provided by trade body the Solar Energy Industries Association. The SEIA has joined calls for help from Congress for the sector, after reporting the 250,000 solar jobs in the nation at the end of last year had fallen by 62,000 to 188,000 because of the fallout from the Covid-19 crisis.

Fellow clean energy bodies called for more federal support for the sector after a report indicated the industry had lost 594,300 jobs because of the spread of Covid-19 and associated mitigation measures. With that figure said to be twice the number of clean energy jobs added in the U.S. in the last three years, the jobless number in the sector is expected to rise to 850,000 next month. The figures were compiled by clean energy policy lobby group Environmental Entrepreneurs, residential renewables lobby E4TheFuture, clean energy advocacy the American Council on Renewable Energy, and Californian outfit BW Research.

U.S. Department of Energy program SolSmart is offering local authorities in Virginia help to go solar, including advice on processing permits and making remote inspections during Covid-19 stay-at-home orders.

New solar

Thinktank France Territoire Solaire has published figures indicating the amount of new solar added in the first three months of the year fell 15% from the fourth quarter of last year, to 176 MW. The organization cited Covid-19-related supply chain disruption and the advent of a coronavirus-prompted industrial shutdown at the end of March as the principal reasons for the setback.

China added 3.95 GW of new solar generation capacity during the Covid-19-hit first three months of the year, according to National Energy Administration figures. The three-month return represented a 24% fall from the amount of new solar added in the same period of last year.

Analysis of residential electricity demand in one neighborhood in Austin, Texas, has led clean energy research firm Pecan Street to predict potential problems for grid companies in the state if stay-at-home orders imposed to limit the spread of Covid-19 are still in place, and driving increased air conditioning demand, during the summer.

EV sales

Market intelligence firm BloombergNEF predicts electric vehicle car sales will fall by 1.7 million units this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. With that 18% retreat less damaging than the anticipated 23% fall in sales of conventional models, however, the penetration of electric vehicles in the overall car market is set to rise again.

Year-high battery electric vehicle (Bev) sales of 11,694 units in the U.K. in March fell 88% to 1,374 last month, illustrating the effect Covid-19 lockdown measures, and associated household economic fears, had. Figures compiled by personal car leasing comparison website LeaseFetcher, however, echoed BloombergNEF’s findings that conventional car sales suffered even more, to the extent the proportion of total sales accounted for by Bevs rose from 4.6% in March to 31.8% last month.

The world’s largest solar trade show has a new date after being postponed in April because of restrictions on public gatherings imposed in China to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The Snec trade show and conference will now take place at the National Exhibition and Convention Center in Shanghai from October 9-12.

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South Asian concerns

Haryana-based solar panel manufacturer Loom Solar has told pv magazine India it and its peers are considering moving into solar cell production because the cost of importing cells from Germany and Taiwan has been driven up by the Covid-19 crisis and its effect on air freight prices. Director and co-founder of Loom Solar, Amol Anand, said India has 8 GW of domestic PV module production capacity but less than 1 GW of cell output.

Solar companies in Bangladesh which took out governmental soft loans to roll out the installation of solar home systems have asked for $145 million of the borrowings to be waived because customers affected by the Covid-19 crisis are no longer able to keep up repayments on the systems.

The South African government confirmed in its official gazette on Friday, construction work can resume on renewable power projects allocated under the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Program and on utility Eskom’s new-build program, which includes the Medupi and Kusile coal-fired power stations. The nation has been under a Covid-19 shutdown since March 26, which has been gradually eased of late.


A survey conducted by the Dutch New Energy Research sister company of sustainable energy events manager Good! Events & Media claims Dutch homeowners are planning to use the money put aside for holidays they cannot take to buy solar instead. Among the 97 companies which responded to the survey, installers predicted business would be down only 8% this month and next, and manufacturers were similarly optimistic, with 38% of them predicting they would have more business as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Commercial and industrial solar installations are expected to fall 31% in June but Dutch New Energy Research insisted those respondents were talking about delayed, rather than cancelled investment plans.

Turkey will make another attempt to hold a 1 GW national solar tender under its Yeka (Yenilenebilir Enerji Kaynak Alanları) renewable energy program in the next quarter. The move has been announced as part of a rescue package to help Turkish industry through the Covid-19 crisis.

Power prices

Newswire Reuters reported day-ahead prices on the Japan Electric Power Exchange have been regularly hitting the minimum level permitted of ¥0.01/kWh ($0.00009) because of low demand during the Covid-19 industrial shutdown and rising renewable energy generation. With summer approaching, solar capacity in the west of the nation has helped depress prices.

In an at-times apocalyptic blogpost about the pressing reasons to invest in solar in a post-Covid-19 South Africa, the chief executive of Johannesburg-based solar installer Sinetech has cited the need for secure power supply for electric fences and other home security systems amid load-shedding which financially stricken utility Eskom has announced will resume this month and continue for 18 months. Also touching on increased home working and associated power needs, Chris Rodgers mentioned ultra-low interest rates offered homeowners the chance to use mortgage bonds to fund rooftop solar which would hedge against steep electricity price rises anticipated from the utility, offering an effective rate of return on a ZAR100,000 ($5,540), 5 kW system of 40.7%, versus property returns of 5.5%, tracker fund stock market profits of 6.89% and investment bank account interest of 6.25%. Rodgers also repeated claims the renewables industry would create more jobs than coal or nuclear-fired power generation and would offer opportunities to laid-off coal industry employees.

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