Editor's note: As of April 2, GTM has established a new standalone page for all of its coverage on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak for the clean energy industries. This blog will no longer be updated.
For all their momentum, the clean-energy sectors — solar, wind, energy storage, and companies transforming the power grid — will not escape the COVID-19 downdraft. These industries face daunting questions about every aspect of their business, from supply chains to potential workforce shortages, to broader questions about the economy, demand for energy and the availability of finance.
Over the coming weeks, Greentech Media will devote much of its journalistic efforts to the impacts of COVID-19. We’ll highlight our most important stories here alongside other news and information that may be useful to our readers. As always, keep in touch and let us know how things look on the ground: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, April 1: The U.S. renewables industry was left out of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill passed last week, but the battle is far from over. Congress is already considering further legislation to rescue the economy from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and renewable energy groups are ready to bring their proposals back to the table.
Wednesday, April 1: European governments are stretching auction and tender timelines and suspending penalties for delayed projects in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Germany, France and Ireland have all taken action to ensure existing projects at various stages of development are not negatively impacted.
Tuesday, March 31: EXCLUSIVE: Residential solar company Sungevity quietly laid off hundreds of employees last week, eliminating most of its workforce as the U.S. solar industry grapples with the coronavirus outbreak's fallout.
Tuesday, March 31: As New York struggles with the country’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s grid operator has taken an extreme step that other parts of the country may have to consider in the weeks ahead: asking critical employees to live and work at the control centers that keep the power grid operating, unsure when they’ll be able to come home.
Monday, March 30: With the coronavirus straining health systems worldwide, compelling statewide shutdowns across the U.S. and confining workers to their homes, the name of the game for the solar industry’s immediate future is “downside risk.” Residential solar companies are expected to be hit especially fast and hard. (Story is for GTM Squared subscribers.)
Friday, March 27: American solar manufacturers are deciding whether to keep workers on the line during the coronavirus crisis or let facilities go dark for an unknown period of time. Many are choosing to stay in operation despite the risks.
Friday, March 27: Europe's solar renaissance looks set to continue blossoming despite the impact of the coronavirus and falling power prices, experts and investors say.
Friday, March 27: The coronavirus pandemic has brought the 2020 election to a screeching halt. Primaries are delayed. Traditional campaigning has stopped. How will climate, cleantech and the environment fit into this new political world? A special crossover episode between The Energy Gang and the Climate 2020 podcasts takes a look.
Thursday, March 26: The largest U.S. solar manufacturer said that Ohio’s “stay-at-home” orders do not apply to its module factories near Toledo.
Thursday, March 26: How long will things be this way? How will we move forward? Will the current economic disruption lead to permanent changes that lower carbon emissions? How does this economic disaster change the field for startups and large companies in clean energy? This week's podcast episode of The Interchange takes a look at those questions and more.
Wednesday, March 25: SunPower announced belt-tightening measures including slashing executive salaries, citing uncertainty related to COVID-19. The company said the efforts would save up to $50 million as it navigates an unpredictable 2020.
Wednesday, March 25: Businesses that shut their doors or send workers home don’t need as much power, and that's before accounting for the growing likelihood of a recession. What impact will the coronavirus outbreak have on corporate demand for renewable energy?
Wednesday, March 25: Clean-energy industry groups confirmed Wednesday that the Senate's stimulus bill, the largest of its kind in U.S. history, lacks extensions of the federal wind PTC and solar ITC. The industry will turn its attention to the possibility of future legislation.
Wednesday, March 25: As Europe's utilities, project developers and network operators take stock, early speculation and guesswork on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak are giving way to more informed forecasts and detailed assessments. Some companies, including Ørsted and Total, have established dedicated task forces to deal with the ever-changing circumstances.
Tuesday, March 24: The American solar and wind industries are pushing for extensions of their federal tax credits in any stimulus package to emerge from Washington, D.C. But there's another way they could find relief: The IRS could confirm that COVID-19-related project delays are an "excusable disruption," allowing projects to remain eligible for the federal Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit while taking pressure off the supply chain, experts say.
Tuesday, March 24: WoodMac cut its forecast for global wind installations this year by 6.5 percent, or 4.9 gigawatts. Shuttered manufacturing capacity, closed borders and the threat of canceled or postponed tenders all play a part in the downgrade, which could hit major European markets hardest.
Monday, March 23: As the coronavirus outbreak empties workplaces across the U.S., the solar industry prepared to argue it should be exempt from mandatory shutdowns. Not every solar sector looks the same: While utility-scale installers can more easily fan out over a large area, residential installers must interact directly with homeowners and cluster closer together on a roof.
Monday, March 23: Pacific Gas & Electric reached a deal with California Gov. Gavin Newsom that could allow it to emerge from bankruptcy by a critical June 30 deadline. Newsom had challenged aspects of PG&E’s plan to come out of bankruptcy, but with the utility's stock price crashing and Californians under an unprecedented stay-at-home order due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the governor agreed to lift his objections.
Monday, March 23: The COVID-19 pandemic is causing sudden shifts in the way we consume energy. What are the long-term consequences to power providers if this goes on for an extended period of time? This week's podcast episode of The Interchange digs into that question.
Friday, March 20: As calls for people to stay home grew increasingly urgent, Tesla announced plans to close two plants making electric vehicles and products for the solar and energy storage markets. Will other U.S. solar manufacturers follow suit? Every Tier 1 solar module factory in the U.S. is located in counties with confirmed coronavirus cases, said Xiaojing Sun, a senior solar analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables.
Thursday, March 19: Some deals, at least, are still getting done. Lightsource BP, the U.K.-based solar developer backed by oil giant BP, tied up a $250 million finance package for a 260-megawatt solar project in Texas. Social distancing rules mean construction workers are not allowed to group together for coffee breaks or other meetings. But Kevin Smith, CEO for the Americas, told GTM he expects the project will be allowed to continue rolling forward.
Thursday, March 19: American society has made dramatic changes in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Why hasn't it responded with similar urgency to climate change — another human-propelled global catastrophe that could harm human health and well-being for generations to come? This week's podcast episode of Political Climate takes a look.
Thursday, March 19: If U.S. wind and solar projects can't finish construction this year, many could lose access to critical federal tax credits that are phasing down. The lobbying battle to prevent that from happening has begun.
Thursday, March 19: We’re facing an oil shock amid a pandemic, supply chains are still in disarray, economic gears are grinding to a near halt, and countries are scrambling to put stimulus packages in place. This week's podcast episode of the Energy Gang looks at how this will shape the energy system.
Thursday, March 19: If a wind farm breaks down during a global pandemic, who will be there to fix it? Travel bans, supply chain pressure and a natural inclination to defer maintenance during difficult economic times could all dent the output of existing wind farms, experts say.
Wednesday, March 18: The world'sNo. 2 maker of wind turbines closed a blade factory after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus, the second factory it's closed in Spain. The facility can turn out enough blades to build 600 to 800 megawatts of wind capacity a year, or around 10 percent of Siemens Gamesa's global output.
Tuesday, March 17: Power utilities and generators face an array of risks in the weeks ahead, from energy "demand destruction" as economies slow to tightening debt conditions that could ripple through the commodity markets. Depressed electricity demand from commercial and industrial consumers is one source of concern. In contrast, residential power demand is "relatively more stable under economic distress," according to a Wood Mackenzie report.
Tuesday, March 17: Some politicians in Eastern Europe have called on the EU to abandon its Green Deal and focus on fighting the spread of the coronavirus. The debate has begun over whether COVID-19 is reason to accelerate or slow down the energy transition.
Tuesday, March 17: Last month, Sunrun CEO Lynn Jurich told investors that residential solar could prove to be a "countercyclical product," potentially creating an "urgency" in the sales process as consumers look to save money. Given the way things are going, Sunrun and its peers will soon be testing that theory.
Monday, March 16: Just a few weeks ago, the biggest COVID-19 concern for renewables appeared to be the supply of equipment. Would there be enough solar panels, wind turbines and batteries to meet demand and project deadlines, given the widespread factory shutdowns in China? But with a recession now all but inevitable, the focus is quickly shifting to demand.