Tracking COVID-19: A look at the UK energy sector’s response

Throughout the world the COVID-19 pandemic is causing huge disruption to industry as supply chains slow, and the solar industry is no different.

Sister site PV Tech Power has been tracking how the sector is responding all around the world, as companies increasingly feel the effects of the pandemic.

Solar Power Portal took a look at how the UK sector was reacting, the implications so far on the energy industry and the predictions for the future.

If you or someone you know has a story to report on how the pandemic is disrupting a solar business in the UK, do get in touch at mlempriere@solarmedia.co.uk

 

Midsummer: Stock levels remain "fairly good" as company well-positioned to be dormant in the event of lockdown

20 March 2020: Midsummer has released a statement assuring it is doing “everything possible” to maintain a good level of service to its customers whilst guaranteeing staff safety.

The company stressed it still has “fairly good stock levels” and more products on order that are set to arrive in the coming weeks and months, however this relies on the continued operation of logistics firms and international flow of goods.

It is asking its customers to remain flexible about the exact products required as substitutes may be more readily available, as well as being flexible about delivery requirements.

In the event of a government-imposed lockdown of non-essential businesses, “Midsummer are well positioned to remain dormant for a time, and reopen for business when practical,” the statement reads, adding they intend to run instructive webinars for installers on a variety of topics.

“If we are forced to put a halt to operations, we choose to take that time to make improvements to our business and hope that our customers will take the same approach - we welcome feedback on what would be helpful to you in this regard.”

 

Expert: Scale of green energy fleet will help UK grid cope with shutdown plans

19 March 2020: The UK's power grid should have “no challenges” keeping the lights on as the country moves to close down schools this week and encourages remote working, according to professor Phil Hart.

Speaking before confirmed COVID-19 cases passed the 2,600 mark in the UK, Hart – director of Energy and Power at Cranfield University – said computer relocation and additional household loads have an “extremely small chance” of upsetting the grid, particularly as offices close down.

According to the professor, the scale of renewables in the UK system will be “helpful” during the crisis. “The size of renewable plants is generally much smaller, and the national power system will be better able to handle withdrawal of multiple smaller sites,” he remarked.

The risks to the UK’s power supply remain "very minimal”, Hart went on to say, as long as the country avoids cuts to basic fuel supply and stations do not watch all staff fall ill. If maintenance regimes are not met at individual plants, there is a risk some may have to be shut down as the crisis wears on, he said.

 

Analysts: Short-term fixed PPAs best bet for green energy players in COVID-19 era

19 March 2020: Renewable energy developers grappling with COVID-19 economic uncertainty would be well advised to resort to short-term fixed power purchase agreements (PPAs), analysts have said.

Jamie Banks, PPA manager at consultancy New Stream Renewables, said in an email this PPA modality will offer green energy players “price certainty and protection”, as well as creating a chance to revise PPA prices upwards in the event prices recover.

Banks said the past few weeks have proven “extremely volatile” for the UK power and gas sectors, adding: “This has been driven by soft market fundamentals and now the pandemic is having a huge impact on the broader commodity complex.”

“Just look at the carbon price over the last 24 hours or so,” the PPA manager went on to say. “It is our view that price uncertainty will remain over the coming weeks, potentially months and this will create significant potential downside price risk for our PPA generators.”

 

Energy UK: Despite ‘extraordinary circumstances’ industry working to ensure no disruption

17 March 2020: The chief executive of Energy UK, Audrey Gallacher, released a statement saying: “As providers of essential services and critical infrastructure, the energy industry has well-practised contingency plans in order to ensure the delivery of services.

“These are extraordinary circumstances and the industry is working closely with the government on a daily basis to ensure there is no disruption to the generation and supply of energy to customers.

“The sector is very conscious of the potential consequences for customers confined to their homes for prolonged periods. In particular, customers in vulnerable circumstances and those on prepayment meters may need additional help and support with repayments or keeping meters topped up. Suppliers will be doing all they can to identify such customers and provide support where possible on a case by case basis.  

“On behalf of its members, Energy UK is in contact with the government, Ofgem and Citizens Advice on what actions, protections and practical steps suppliers can take to support and reassure their customers throughout the outbreak. 

“The industry is fully committed to providing all the help and support it can to its customers through this difficult time.”

 

IEA: Don’t let COVID-19 distract from ‘historic opportunity’ of energy transition

16 March 2020: Countries scrambling to respond to the global COVID-19 emergency should not allow the crisis to derail the green energy shift the world needs in the long run, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said.  

The “severe but likely to be temporary” impacts from the pandemic must not be allowed to compromise the “inescapable challenge” of climate change and global emissions, IEA executive director Fatih Birol argued in a social media post he penned over the weekend.

“The coronavirus crisis is already doing significant damage around the world. Rather than compounding the tragedy by allowing it to hinder clean energy transitions, we need to seize the opportunity to help accelerate them,” said Birol, chosen to head up the IEA in 2015.

 

BloombergNEF cuts global solar demand forecast on coronavirus concerns

12 March 2020: BloombergNEF (BNEF) has reduced its global solar demand forecast for 2020, due to the impact related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks.

BNEF lowered its forecast range from 121GW-152GW to 108GW-143GW. With the low end of the revised range, BNEF is highlighting the possibility that COVID-19 could have such an impact on demand that 2020 could mark the first time in several decades when annual demand falls below that of the previous year. 

BNEF noted that Chinese factories were at various stages of restarting and ramping capacity, a move set to ease pressure on the supply of key components and equipment.

 

For more worldwide updates, check out PV Tech Power's COVID-19 Tracker