While we have avoided risking the spreading of false information or reacting too hastily to an ever-changing situation, here are some of the latest developments. This blog will be updated as and when new information or views arrive. This blog continues on from the first edition which ran from 17 March 2020 to 3 April 2020.
PS: Our colleagues over at PV Tech are also running an industry COVID-19 tracker blog, view it here.
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Cover Image: New York's lockdown is aimed at slowing the spread of viral infections and saving lives. Image taken from State Governor Andrew Cuomo's Twitter feed.
17 April 2020: ‘Essential services’ decree in Italy allows factory reopening, says Manz
“We are happy about the Italian government's decision that allows us to fully resume business operations in Italy,” Manz AG CEO Martin Drasch has said, following a ruling that deems lithium-ion battery production to be of ‘strategic importance’ for the European country.
Mechanical engineering company Manz reopened its two factories in Germany, which include solar industry equipment production lines earlier this month after a three-week halt, our sister site PV Tech reported. That had been done with safety measures in place including short-time working and separate shifts to reduce social contact.
Subsequently, decree issued by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte that came into effect on 14 April gave a list of businessesthat could resume operations – with safety measures, precautions and some restrictions in place.
16 April 2020: Behind-the-meter energy storage to be heavily hit by COVID-19, but industry growth will be resilient
IHS Markit energy storage research manager Julian Jansen has blogged exclusively for Energy-Storage.news this week on the already-felt and expected market-wide impacts of COVID-19, including some of the company's revised forecasts for the year's deployments across segments and geographies. As Julian Janses writes in the article:
Initial estimates show that the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus may be very severe. Preliminary results from IHS Markit’s Economics and Global Risk team's latest global forecast update indicate a global GDP decline that will be far worse than the contraction in 2009”.
This highlights the wider financial difficulties in the coming months as this is not a crisis purely defined by temporary restrictions on workforces and logistics, but increasingly by an economic collapse of unprecedented proportions.
The energy storage industry is still in an early stage of rapid development. Thus, the epidemic should have a limited impact on the overall market development in 2020. As the fundamental need for the technology underpins strong project pipeline and the existing steep growth curve. Growth in 2021 and beyond will thus continue to accelerate.
14 April 2020: COVID-19 poses ‘significant risks of workforce reductions, economic damage’ to US storage industry
The upstream segment of the US energy storage industry is expecting “more widespread and greater revenue declines” and bigger reductions in employment in the first quarter of 2020 than the downstream, a survey by the national Energy Storage Association (ESA) has found.
Following up on an initial survey in March that found many respondents expected to see significant delays on project execution that the association said could be “immediate and potentially devastating” to the industry, the ESA conducted another one that this time looked at industry revenue and employment expectations.
Almost two-thirds (63%) of the 101 survey respondents expect revenues to decrease, and around half of those expect to see a decrease of 20% or more. Meanwhile, three quarters (75%) did not expect to have to reduce employment – which included contractors. However, most of the remaining 25% that did say employee numbers might have to be reduced believe that up to 20% of their workforce might be affected.
ESA CEO Kelly Speakes-Backman said the association still anticipates year-on-year growth for the industry but that the COVID-19 pandemic “has impacted the energy storage industry tremendously,” including “immediate and significant risks of workforce reductions and economic damage”.
9 April 2020: The latest episode of the Solar Media Podcast has just landed, including lengthy discussion of the coronavirus' impacts on the energy sector, with, of course, particular regard to energy storage and solar PV.
From a 'shout out' to the heroes of the 'forgotten frontline' – the workers in the energy sector tirelessly working to keep the lights on as well those working to ensure the energy transition doesn't come to a grinding halt, to the much-talked about impacts on the supply chain and what that really means for project development from China to the US.
There's room for discussion of much, much more besides in the hour-long episide, including recent huge solar manufacturing capacity expansion plans tracked by PV Tech to the rising value of behind-the-meter energy storage in Australia.
Listen to the podcast below or go here for more links to where it's hosted, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Breaker.
9 April 2020: North America’s grid-scale energy storage developers remain committed to work in progress
Permitting delays, supply chain bottlenecks and safety rules for construction teams resulting from the COVID-19 crisis have had their impact on large-scale energy storage project developers in North America, but customer interest remains strong and investors remain committed, Energy-Storage.news has heard.
Two major developers, Key Capture Energy and Convergent Energy + Power responded to a few short questions from Energy-Storage.news on the impacts of COVID-19 on their work. Both companies featured in our recent feature article which looked back on 2019's market landscape and looked ahead to the coming decade, ‘#SmartSolarStorage2020: A developers’ eye view on North America'.
“As with everyone, the impacts are changing day by day and we continue to monitor the latest news and adapt accordingly. We modify our efforts across the board based upon local, state and federal guidance to ensure the safety and well-being of our team, consultants, and contractors,” Dan Fitzgerald, chief operating officer of Key Capture Energy said.
“Remarkably during this time, it seems that we are busier than ever and are effectively working remotely from home. In fact we’re even hiring and on-boarding employees remotely. Our development and operations teams are able to continue with nearly all of their work at this time. We have seen minor, but manageable, impact to our construction work”.
“COVID-19 has slowed battery storage supply chains, since the majority of battery cells (and solar arrays) are built in China. We are also looking closely at the impact on the supply chains for the other system components as manufacturers suspend operations across the world, including here in the US. We’re hopeful that social distancing and the rapidly increasing response in North America will help to ‘flatten the curve’,” Convergent Energy + Power’s CEO Johannes Ritterhausen said.
“We’re in close communication with the robust list of Tier-One suppliers we’ve worked with over the last ~10 years and are doing all we can under the circumstances. Because Convergent has remained 'technology neutral' we are always in a position to find the best supplier and product for each individual customer we work with”.
9 April 2020: Coronavirus is bringing to light ‘cracks in US infrastructure and supply chain’
Dr Francis Wang, head of Nanograf, a US company working to commercialise a high energy density battery anode made with a composite of silicon and ‘curved’ graphene, replacing existing anodes which use graphite, said that the situation created by the novel coronavirus “is bringing to light… cracks in US infrastructure and the supply chain”.
Asked by Energy-Storage.news for an upstream technologist’s opinion on how supply chains have been impacted by the shutdown of operations in factories first in China and then elsewhere in the world, Wang said that “the US doesn't make anything anymore, and we are having trouble because we don't make equipment or materials and batteries is one of them”.
“Most battery production is split between Japan, Korea and China. It used to be roughly one-third, one-third, one-third, in terms of output. But in recent years it’s become closer to 60-70% of lithium ion batteries being made in China. That’s a big deal,” the Nanograf CEO said.
Similarly, in a recent interview with Energy-Storage.news, Emad Zand, energy solutions head at European battery manufacturing startup Northvolt, said that the idea of a European continent unable to compete with China on making its own battery devices is “a scary thought”.
7 April 2020: California has ruled that essential services can continue work in the US state, which had been interpreted to mean that solar and storage installations and maintenance work can carry on as long as social distancing and other safety rules are obeyed, according to trade group CALSSA.
In the past few days, stricter measures have been announced in some of the counties, so we would urge you to check up with the CALSSA website's COVID-19 resources centre for the latest information if you're working in California and unsure what to do.
On a related note, we ran a Guest Blog on the website yesterday from energy storage system provider Electriq Power, which is based in the state, on how to properly size energy storage systems for residential customers.
“People have time now to get their house in order during these uncertain times, with much of North America sheltered in place, at home. Installers aren't managing crews and scheduling and procurement. They too have the time right now to get their business in order and spend some more time understanding what is going on with storage,” Aric Saunders from Electriq Power writes.
Read Aric's Guest Blog, “An installer’s guide to sizing a residential energy storage system,”. Part of this year's #SmartSolarStorage2020 series.
7 April 2020: “This is just the sort of initiative needed to boost consumer confidence and keep people employed during these uncertain times,” Australia's national Clean Energy Council’s chief executive Kane Thornton said, as the Northern Territory announced financial support for homes and businesses to buy solar and battery storage as part of a stimulus package in response to COVID-19.
The state also announced a large-scale battery energy storage plant for its Darwin-Katherine electric grid. Elsewhere, Clean Energy Council also applauded Western Australia's state government as it introduced a plan for community 'Powerbanks' – solar-plus-storage installations that whole neighbourhoods or towns can benefit from.
6 April 2020: China’s energy storage industry hopes for rebound in second half of 2020
A survey of present and expected impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on member companies in the China Energy Storage Alliance (CNESA) has underscored their faith in recovery prospects, despite the worries of nearly 80% of respondents over “reduced operating income and tightening of liquidity”.
A summary of findings emailed to Energy-Storage.News said there has been an undoubted impact on both the upstream and downstream end of the energy storage industry, with supply chain production and project deployments and grid connections alike suffering delays.
However, association research manager Wang Si said in his summary that 64% of survey respondents believe “new opportunities for energy storage will emerge after the outbreak is contained,” while “most also believe that the energy storage market can still achieve its predicted growth rate in 2020”.
6 April 2020: New York’s economic relief plan to back ‘rapid transition to clean renewable energy’
New York State has opted to “dramatically speed up the siting and construction of clean energy projects” as one facet of its roadmap for economic comeback from the COVID-19 crisis, which has hit the US state hard.
New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) emailed PV Tech and sister site Energy-Storage.news over the weekend with the announcement. NYSERDA is one of the public agencies enacting the new legislation, which will help speed up the permitting of large-scale renewable and clean energy projects (defined as larger than 25MW, or between 20MW to 25MW), as well as the development of projects in areas such as landfills and abandoned or underused sites.
The raft of bills is called the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act and will be enacted by NYSERDA along with the NY State Department of State, its Department of Public Service, its Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Empire State Development Corporation.
“While Governor Cuomo and the State work tirelessly to defeat COVID-19, we must continue to move forward and confront our climate crisis in order to protect New Yorkers from the dangerous consequences of a changing climate,” said Alicia Barton, president and CEO of NYSERDA.