Coronavirus could see the global solar industry suffer its first dip in annual capacity additions since the 1980s while wind faces “considerable downside risk” on earlier forecasts, said analyst group BloombergNEF.
BNEF said the gathering Covid-19 epidemic threatens to become a “significant global crisis, triggering an economic slowdown” as it gave its first assessment of the outbreak’s impact on key clean energy sectors.
The research group – one of the most respected analysts covering the energy transition – cut its 2020 global solar demand forecast from 121-152GW to 108-143GW, which it said could represent the first dip in annual solar capacity additions since the 80s. The biggest impact on installations will be in China, where policy changes in response to coronavirus could push installations arising from a 'mega-solar' auction into 2021, it said.
However, there isn't expected to be a lengthy shortage of PV modules as Chinese factories restart and supplies start arriving in Q2.
As for wind, BNEF said there is “considerable downside risk to our forecast for 2020 wind installations from the 75.4GW we forecast in December 2019, but we still expect this year to be a record year for new wind installations”.
It added: “The size of the drop will depend on how quickly Chinese suppliers ramp up to full production as staff slowly return from isolation, and the severity of delays to already-tight construction schedules from late component deliveries in the US.”
BNEF noted that both China and the US are up against tight subsidy-driven wind project completion deadlines this year. “It is not yet clear if the respective governments will be lenient on projects that are pushed into 2021.”
The group’s researchers said battery demand is likely to be 3GWh lower this year than initially expected even on the most optimistic scenario – with a worst case up to 9GWh lower.
With China’s factories restarting, the pressure on component supply should begin to ease – but BNEF said a new concern is demand “as policy makers may divert attention away from clean energy to more pressing concerns.
“However, the short-term interruption to production in China has highlighted the need for diversified supply chains and strengthened the case for localised manufacturing in Asia, Europe and the US, especially for batteries.”