19 march 2020

Inside Clean Energy: Coronavirus May Mean Halt to Global Solar Gains—For Now

Revised forecasts indicate that demand for solar panels will be down this year for the first time since the 1980s.

Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News, Mar 19, 2020

In the middle of a public health emergency, it's difficult to think about much of anything besides keeping everyone safe.

But we also need to look ahead at the potential economic effects of this crisis on the transition to clean energy. With that in mind, we are getting a better idea of what coronavirus means for the growth of solar power in the near future.

Projects are likely to slow this year because of disruptions being experienced by the companies that do the work and pay for it.

But there remains a wide range of potential outcomes, depending on the answers to the questions we're all asking about how long this crisis will last.

BloombergNEF has revised its global forecasts for 2020, saying that demand for photovoltaic solar panels will be in the range of 108 to 143 gigawatts, down from the range of 121 to 152 gigawatts that was in the forecast less than a month ago. This is an 8 percent decrease based on the midpoint of both ranges.

If the low end of this forecast turns out to be accurate, it would be the first down year for solar since at least the 1980s.

Solar Forecast Shows Virus Effects

"The pandemic is really a black swan," said Jenny Chase, BloombergNEF's lead solar analyst. "Really as late as February we didn't realize it was quite going to go global pandemic."

She told me that the best an analyst can do is give an idea of the broad direction of the market, and then update that direction as things change. It helps that she's been doing this for 15 years and has seen downturns before.

"People think it's the end of the world, but people still need clean energy, they still need electricity," she said. "Energy is still cheap. It still works. I think people will go back to work and build again."

Looking long-term, she thinks the pandemic will affect renewable energy in 2020 and have reverberations into some of 2021 before we get back to something resembling normal.

In the meantime, the waters will be choppy.

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