A senior executive in China’s power and renewables industry is among the early victims of the country’s deadly coronavirus outbreak, Recharge can reveal, as sector insiders warned the health emergency could damage plans to build wind projects ahead of government subsidy deadlines.
Yang Jun, a 50-year-old working in the power division of industrial giant Shanghai Electric, died in Beijing on 27 January as the first reported case of coronavirus in the Chinese capital, according to industry sources and official data from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Yang – who before joining Shanghai Electric last year was a vice president at global PV giant Trina Solar – had earlier in January been on a business trip to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the outbreak that has now claimed 213 lives, a Shanghai Electric internal circular revealed as it confirmed his infection five days before his death.
Shanghai Electric, whose wider operations include power technology and one of China’s leading wind turbine manufacturing businesses, started its company vacation for national New Year holidays two days early, with no more cases reported so far.
News of Yang’s death comes a day after Recharge reported exclusively that global wind industry giants including Vestas and Orsted have imposed travel restrictions to guard against the infection.
Industry insiders, including sources in China's wind OEMs, are already warning that the outbreak, and measures to control it, will have a chilling effect on an already highly-stressed supply chain in the Chinese sector.
Government plans to delay resumption of work after the national holiday will disrupt an already-tight schedule, as developers race to install onshore and offshore wind projects by the end of 2020 and 2021 to secure final deals for expiring national subsidies.
The wind supply chain has already been struggling to cope with the massive demand in the coming two years, with the production capacity of turbines, bearings, blades, and offshore wind installation vessels identified as critical bottlenecks.
To curb the coronavirus, Beijing extended China’s new year holiday from the end of January to 3 February, while most regional governments issued further delays to a restart of companies’ operations —most extending the holiday to 9 February and a few to 16 February.
Major offshore wind regions Jiangsu, Guangdong, Fujian, Shanghai and Zhejiang, have all imposed ten-day holiday extensions; several inland provinces with wind equipment production facilities such as Sichuan, Chongqing, and Hunan will also suspend work until at least 9 February 9th.
“Certainly, that will have an impact on product delivery schedules,” a source in Chongqing-based CSIC Haizhuang told Recharge.
Besides production halts, “transportation of the turbine parts is another challenge”, the source explained. Due to the public health emergency, many cities in China imposed harsh restrictions for transmunicipal travel, making it far harder to transport goods.
As the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, the industry is also preparing to embrace further negative impacts from restriction measures on international traffic.
“It is still too early to judge the full impact,” a cross-border replacement components trader told Recharge, adding negative impacts are expected from “the slow-down in customs and the potential restrictions for inbound or outbound goods”.