GTM’s Live Coronavirus Blog: The Impact on Clean Energy

The U.S. solar industry argues its workers are “essential,” while California’s governor lifts his objections to PG&E’s plan to emerge from bankruptcy. Follow the latest developments here.

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: editors@greentechmedia.com

Are Solar Workers ‘Essential’? The Industry May Soon Find Out

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. 

PG&E Reaches Deal With California Governor to Emerge From Bankruptcy

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.

How Electricity Use Changes During a Pandemic

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.

Tesla Closes Factories in California and New York

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.

Lightsource BP Finalizes a Big Texas Solar Deal (Despite Everything)

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.

What COVID-19 and Climate Change Have in Common

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.

Solar, Wind and Storage Industries Seek Relief in Coronavirus Stimulus Package

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.

How the Pandemic Will Reshape the Energy Transition

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.

Coronavirus Could Make It Harder to Keep Wind Farms Up and Running

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.

Siemens Gamesa Closes a Second Factory After Positive Coronavirus Test

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.


Keeping the Lights On: U.S. Utility Sector Braces for Coronavirus Impact

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.

EU Green Deal Should Be Canceled Because of Coronavirus, Czech PM Says

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.

Can Rooftop Solar Thrive in an Economic Downturn?

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.

For Wind and Solar Sectors, Biggest Coronavirus Risk May Be a Damaged Economy

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.

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