Covid-19 weekly round-up: Residential systems in Italy will get a 110% tax rebate and UK consumers are being paid to turn appliances on as coronavirus turns the energy world upside down

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London-based renewable energy sector financial advisor August & Co says appetite for clean energy investment is still strong, despite bank financing costs having risen around 1% since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The company said investors it had consulted indicated private equity firms previously eyeing transport or midstream oil and gas opportunities were now ready to pivot to renewables, in part thanks to recent oil and gas price shocks. The advisor added, electricity futures prices in Europe were already on the mend.

Nigerian commercial and industrial solar installer Starsight has fitted a PV array to power an hospital in Ikole, in Ekiti state, to help reduce the waiting time to process Covid-19 tests. Starsight, which said it wants to devote 1 MW of its equipment inventory to a move into the healthcare sector and the fight against coronavirus, funded the installation, which took just five days. Starsight is backed by London-based African oil and gas investor Helios Investment Partners and the Africa Infrastructure Investment Managers fund set-up by Australian investment bank Macquarie and South African peer Old Mutual.

Developers dig deep

The recipients of renewable energy incentives in Italy have donated around €675,000 (US$742,000) in payments to public health institutions in the nation combating the spread of Covid-19, according to renewables agency the Gestore dei Servizi Energetici. Staff at the organization also raised €15,000 for the National Institute for Infectious Diseases, based in Rome, by donating the equivalent of at least an hour’s wages each.

Thinktank the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis has advised the Bangladeshi government to halt capacity payments to coal and liquefied natural gas plants and turn to cheap, modular renewable energy plants as it attempts to come out of the Covid-19 crisis. The country already had significant power generation overcapacity before electricity demand slumped because of the coronavirus industrial shutdown. Bangladesh estimates it will have paid $1.1 billion in generation subsidies during the last fiscal year.

The Romanian government has moved to restore investor confidence in the renewable energy industry by permitting the use of long-term, two-way, private power supply deals between clean energy generators and users. Private power deals of that type have been banned for almost eight years in the nation but the Romanian government is bowing to pressure from the European Commission to deregulate its energy market and to restore investor confidence as a hedge against ultra-low energy prices experienced during the Covid-19 shutdown.

Time to put the kettle on?

U.K.-based renewable energy company Octopus Energy on Sunday reportedly paid more than 100,000 customers with smart meters to operate household appliances as an experiment to soak up excess clean power generated during the Covid-19 shutdown, which has caused power demand to slump. The energy business said incentivizing energy use at low-demand periods would prevent curtailment of renewable energy and possible blackouts caused by excess electricity on the grid.

Jean-François Petit, director-general of French operations for U.K. clean energy developer Renewable Energy Solutions, told pv magazine France the fallout from the Covid-19 crisis on the renewables sector may not be felt for 2-3 years. Petit said supply chain disruption and administrative hold-ups were the main threat to continued project deployment and said it was vital goods continued to circulate and staff were able to work in Europe to keep the worst effects on the sector at bay.

The International Energy Agency has predicted the volume of new solar generation capacity added in India this year will be 23% lower than last year, thanks in part to supply chain disruption as a result of the Covid-19 crisis.

Free solar panels!

The Italian government has raised the tax deductible benefit available for installing residential solar and storage as part of heating and cooling system renovations, from 50% to 110%, as part of a Relaunch decree aimed at restarting the economy after the public health crisis.

Indian developer Acme Solar wants to walk away from the record low solar tariff of INR2.44/kWh ($0.0321962) it agreed in 2018 for a 600 MW project in Rajasthan. The developer says it will be impossible to complete the project in time to qualify for the payments, even with a six-month extension to the deadline, until November next year. Commissioning body the Solar Energy Corporation of India, though, says even the force majeure clause cited by Acme in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic should not delay completion of the project beyond early August next year.

The Green Party of Australia has proposed a Covid-19 economic stimulus package featuring a AU$12 billion (US$7.9 billion) Manufacturing Australia Fund, revival of the AU$200 million Clean Technology Innovation Program, a AU$6 billion Grid Transformation Fund, a AU$150 million national electric vehicle fast-charging network and a AU$25 billion national public transport infrastructure fund. Independent MP Zali Steggall has called for a roundtable to hear all contributions on how Australia should get the economy back on track after the coronavirus pandemic.

Back online

pv magazine Mexico reported 23 renewable energy projects in the country secured permission to restart testing operations after the government banned grid connections for clean power facilities, citing the need to secure a stable grid during the Covid-19 pandemic. The project developers reportedly lodged “amparo” lawsuits, designed to protect the constitutional rights of individuals.

Czech industry body the Solar Association has accused the populist, ANO 2011 government of prime minister Andrej Babiš of using the economic fallout brought on by the coronavirus crisis as cover for imposing planned retroactive charges on feed-in tariffs agreed for more than 2 GW of solar capacity allocated in 2009 and 2010. The government has reportedly announced plans to extend the use of coal-fired power generation and to add new nuclear capacity as part of its plans for a post-Covid-19 economic recovery.

U.K. analyst Cornwall Insight has reported the captured wholesale price for solar power fell 14.9% below the baseload price, associated with minimum levels of demand, in March and April. The price for March was 8.4% below baseload, according to the analyst, with the price affected by cannibalization during the demand slump driven by the Covid-19 industrial shutdown retreating to just £0.0196/kWh ($0.0240327) last month.