Installers across the UK are shutting up shop in light of the COVID-19 pandemic (coronavirus) as uncertainty remains over key worker classification.

Solar Power Portal spoke to a number of solar PV installers today, with many confirming they would be closing their doors to new installations for the foreseeable future.

The Phoenix Works confirmed it would be closing in a post on Twitter, stating it is facing an “unprecedented situation” and has decided to pause all installations with immediate effect. However, it will still be open for remote enquiries and quotations.

This is a similar story across the installers contacted by Solar Power Portal. Joju Solar said it has paused all of its residential installations, although commercial installations are still going ahead until the end of the month. Absolute Solar isn’t currently operating due to clients pulling the company off of sites, although this may change depending on guidelines, this publication was told.

Likewise, AES Solar is not taking on any new installations but will be responding to inquiries and providing quotes, with the company having already ensured all its installations are safe. The Solar Shed will also be taking calls and doing phone consultations but has paused residential installations, it was confirmed on Twitter.

Chris Hewett, chief executive of the Solar Trade Association, confirmed that “many installers are making the decision to pause work that entails direct contact with customers and site construction”.

“These decisions will all be made with the health and welfare of employees and local communities being of paramount concern.

“Clearly this will have an impact on the growth of solar power and deployment of energy storage in the UK, and this is currently impossible to estimate. However, we believe any impacts will be temporary and will impress on the government how it can ensure its economic recovery measures stimulate renewable energy, and solar in particular.”

Hewett also confirmed the STA is in talks with government officials to ensure any support measures are “well targeted and the government is well briefed on the impacts in our sector in this rapidly changing situation”.

The MCS also stressed that it is trying to be as “responsive as possible” to support its installers, offering advice and support and that it remains fully open for business, being supported by a remote managed Helpdesk to continue to provide a complete and effective service.

Chief executive Ian Rippin said: “We have started to proactively survey our community of manufacturers and installers to capture the challenges that they face. We are also working closely with the trade associations to gather as much intelligence as possible from industry to feedback to the government. Themes are still emerging but the initial feedback indicates that supply chain disruption has posed the biggest problem.”

Whilst some installers are still operating – for instance, Solar Power Portal was told by HBS New Energies they are currently continuing installations – it seems the majority of the residential and commercial industry is putting the breaks on, following the latest government advice to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.

However, those who can’t work from home are allowed to continue to go to work under this advice, with oil, gas and electricity workers classed as key workers for childcare purposes. In an update released today (25 March), Bluefield Solar outlined that it has 19 employees as part of Bluefield Operations who are regionally based and focused on the operation and maintenance of assets, with the company expecting a number of these employees to be categorised as key workers, enabling them to carry out their activities effectively.

Installer RenEnergy told Solar Power Portal it would be continuing O&M activities only if emergency cases arise, but currently all staff are working from home. It has also paused home visits, as well as work on a site in Scotland.

Solar Power Portal asked the Cabinet Office for clarification on whether operations and maintenance workers for solar farms would be classified as key workers. A spokesperson pointed this publication towards the pre-published list for childcare and reiterated the advice that those unable to work from home can continue to travel into work but could not provide any further information.