“We’ve always been agile, it’s in our DNA”: solar sector shows resilience in 2020

Last week, SolarPower Europe and the Solar Trade Association held the annual Solar Quality event, with a key session on Building Business Resilience and Sustaining Growth in the wake of COVID-19. The session discussed a range of issues including carbon targets, government support for renewables, a sustained investor confidence in renewables, and the emergence of new technologies all of which are “driving growth in this industry”, as expressed by Elizabeth Reid, Partner at Bird & Bird.

Reid highlighted that despite COVID-19 and Brexit uncertainties, there was clear confidence in the solar sector, emanating throughout the crises and expected to continue into next year: “This is the busiest we’ve been for a long time in solar transactions, busier than the last few years. One factor causing this is the economic uncertainty that is pervasive at the moment. It makes people want to invest in safe, long term, stable revenue streams and infrastructure assets and renewable assets really do tick that box.” 

Edmée Kelsey, Chief Executive Officer of 3megawatt, said that the solar sector is well positioned to adapt to unexpected circumstances: “We’ve always been agile as an industry; we’ve always had to adapt, whether it was because all of a sudden there was a solar tax out of nowhere, or suddenly feed-in tariffs were cut. It’s in our DNA. As a result, now we have an advantage, because we may not have as much baggage as other industries.”

Chris Hewett, Chief Executive of the Solar Trade Association, backed this up, by emphasising that even during the height of the pandemic, solar stayed strong, showing its flexibility and scalability: “In the spring we saw a breeze of the future, of a much more variable electricity world. In the UK we saw 25% of solar on the grid most days during May. It was extraordinary. That’s a very high penetration. It coped well and we found ways of doing flexibility with the renewables themselves as well as via storage.”

Reid emphasised investor confidence, because corporate PPAs for renewables were still sought after, even when the pandemic was at its worst: “We’ve seen people willing to sign up to deals even during the height of the crisis. I think now with vaccines developing, as we start to see a light at the end of the tunnel, that is likely to fuel further investor and economic confidence.” 

This business resilience panel  noted a fundamental shift, as a few years ago solar was associated with terms like “high risk, innovative, pioneering. But it’s not now. It’s a safe place to put your money. The technology has proven that and is being spoke about as a safe and resilient investment,” finished Hewett.  

The Solar Quality 2020 Event is the rebranded market-leading O&M and Asset Management conference, which has been running for the past four years. During the virtual event, SolarPower Europe’s Lifecycle Quality Workstream presented an industry-first Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) Best Practice Guidelines, version 2.0 of its industry-standard Asset Management Best Practice Guidelines, as well as the Asset Management Best Practice Mark, a voluntary quality label for providers that includes a self-assessment checklist. 
Photo by Vivint Solar

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