Covid-19 weekly round-up: Differing opinions on energy storage fall-out, a trade show update and some surprisingly positive financials


Two U.K.-based consultants have ventured to offer energy storage industry forecasts with IHS Markit predicting storage tech is showing resilience to Covid-19 while Interact Analysis says the pandemic will hold up a recovery in the lithium-ion battery production equipment market which had been expected to occur this year.

Indian forecaster JMK Research and Analysis has predicted the nation is on track to install up to 3.5 GW of new solar this year – most of it in the second half – and will rebound to 7.7 GW next year as the industry shows signs of a return to normality following Covid-19 disruption.

Another industry event has gone virtual with the news the Indian-headquartered International Solar Alliance will hold its inaugural World Solar Technology Summit online on September 8, with Indian PM Narendra Modi to take part.

An Ernst & Young report has noted a sharp decline in energy and utility deals in the Americas during the first half of the year, with a notable fall-off during the second quarter as Covid-19 tightened its grip across the two continents. The global auditor highlighted the resiliency of the clean energy sector, however, with renewables accounting for a much bigger proportion of total deal activity than in pre-pandemic days.

Profit warning

The Hong Kong-based Xinte Energy polysilicon manufacturing unit of solar company TBEA has warned profits will top out at no more than RMB5 million (US$724,000) for the first half – following returns of RMB235 million in the first six months of last year – with the impact of Covid-19 on its engineering and construction business a contributory factor, alongside falling polysilicon prices.

India’s Ministry of New & Renewable Energy has permitted a five-month extension to completion deadlines for solar projects which were under development on March 25, when the nation’s Covid-19 shutdown began. The ministry also waived a previous requirement upon developers to provide evidence of how the coronavirus had impacted their projects in order to be eligible for force majeure exemptions to contractual requirements.

The public health crisis in India – in particular the resulting labor shortage – has been cited as the cause of an 81% quarter-on-quarter fall in the volume of solar generation capacity deployed, after the nation added just 205 MW of new projects in the April-to-June period, according to U.S.-based analyst Mercom India Research.

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German inverter maker SMA Solar Technology reported solid first-half financials despite the Covid-19 crisis, posting a €3 million (US$3.58 million) net profit for the six-month window, following a €14 million loss in the same period of last year.

Chinese PV manufacturer Solargiga cited the effects of Covid-19 on demand, and a coronavirus-related rise in production costs as contributory factors in an anticipated widening of first-half losses by 65-75%, compared with the same period of last year. The chief hit for the Hong Kong-listed company, however, will come from impairment charges related to the decommissioning of obsolete solar cell production equipment.

The Solar Power International trade show planned in Las Vegas for October 21-22 will now be held entirely online because of the spread of Covid-19 in the U.S. The Vegas event was originally planned as the North American Smart Energy Week in Anaheim, California back in September, with that event being moved to Nevada and then shifted back because of the public health crisis.

Bumper tender

The 700 MW national solar tender in Portugal which was postponed from March until early June because of Covid-19 has been oversubscribed tenfold, according to environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes.

The All-Energy Australia event planned for October 21-22 in Melbourne is the latest trade show to fall victim to Covid-19 but organizers have confirmed plans will go ahead for the Key Energy expo in Rimini, Italy on November 3-6 and France’s EnerGaïa fair, in Montpellier on December 9-10.

U.S. solar manufacturer Sunpower was able to post a first-half rise in profits, year-on-year, thanks in part to measures taken in advance of the onset of Covid-19 in the States, including reducing executive pay and staff working hours. CEO Tom Warner said orders will drop off in the current quarter but are expected to recover in the last three months of the year. First Solar also posted second-quarter results which indicated resilience to the pandemic.

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