Covid-19 weekly round-up: Solar resilient in the US as Australia and Europe forge ahead through crisis

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The Electric Power Monthly report produced by the U.S. Energy Information Administration has painted a picture similar to that observed elsewhere around the world, with solar electricity generation rising during the Covid-19 pandemic – in this instance during May – while rival energy sources coal and nuclear produced less power, compared to May last year. Solar production for the month in the U.S. was an estimated 30% higher than in May 2019. Coal generation fell 35% and nuclear 4%.

The AU$5.5 billion (US$3.95 billion) Covid-19 Recovery Plan unveiled by the state of Western Australia includes AU$56.3 million for solar for social housing, schools, public transport stations and isolated and indigenous communities. The state will also top up the AU$9.3 million Clean Energy Future Fund – which awards grants for renewables tech innovation – with an additional AU$10 million.

German green lender Umweltbank has told pv magazine it is seeing a recovery in the unsubsidized, power purchase agreement-dependent solar segment in Europe, after the market was halted by the lower wholesale power prices experienced during Covid-19 industrial shutdowns across the continent.

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U.K.-based analyst Cornwall Insight has reported the value of green energy certificates in the nation tumbled more than a third in the last quarter, from their Q1 prices. More than a third of the 50 companies surveyed by the analyst predicted the low price would continue for at least 6-12 months with a further 21% predicting the situation would extend significantly longer than that.

The Virtual Solar Summit held by San Francisco-based solar system design software company Aurora Solar heard about positives which are emerging from the industry during the coronavirus crisis, including the belief many in the U.S. are looking to solar to drive the Covid-19 recovery and even that some solar projects are going through the development and permitting process faster thanks to easier-to-arrange online meetings and permitting processes.

Analysis by Norwegian consultant Rystad Energy has revealed, although Australia suffered its worst six-month window for new utility scale solar in the first half of this year – in large part thanks to Covid-19 – the pandemic did nothing to slow the rate of planned future green energy projects in the nation. The first-half announcement of plans for 9.2 GWac of new solar capacity in Australia did the heavy lifting among 28.4 GWac of solar, wind, energy storage and electrolyzer announcements, a six-month figure larger than the 27.2 GWac posted in the first half of last year and the 13.7 GWac in the January-to-July period of 2018.