The world has changed significantly since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. Covid-19 has forced federal governments across the globe to announce fiscal measures to support their ailing economies. Most of the countries have adopted the traditional pattern: adjusting their monetary rates, huge spending to support affected households, newer laws, bringing new restrictions and rules. Governments announced considerable packages as stimulus and relief measures. While these packages may act as relief or temporary aid to businesses, the recovery of the power sector, for example, will have a long way to go. Governments’ industry-specific responses will decide the medium-term outlook of the power sector.
World Economic Forum (WEF) on 28 April 2020 outlined how sustainable infrastructure can aid post-Covid-19 recovery. WEF highlights: (a) sustainable and technologically advanced infrastructure can lead to an inclusive economic recovery; (b) emerging and low-income economies can see returns 4x times from their infrastructure spend on infrastructure that focuses on long-term resilience; (c) government should take lead for attracting investments in infrastructure projects. WEF suggestion is in line with International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) – Global Renewable Outlook, published on 20 April 2020. IRENA highlights decarbonisation of the energy system could support short-term recovery while creating resilient and inclusive economies and societies. Decarbonisation of the energy system requires over 80% of total energy investment to be invested in renewable power, energy efficiency, end-use electrification, power grid upgrades and grid flexibility.
Countries like Australia, France, Spain and China have taken the first steps, stimulating the power sector by attracting investments in renewable infrastructure. However, utilities or RE developers need to overcome Covid-19-induced challenges around accessing capital, debt and to supply chains, which can restrict the entry of new investments.
France awards 1GW solar through auctions
In the first week of April, France Energy Ministry awarded 1.7GW of renewable projects to private developers who participated in the national-level auctions. The auctions were as per the plan drafted in France’s multi-annual energy programme. Of the total 1.7GW, wind turbine will power 750MW and different solar technologies will power the rest. Overall, 288 projects were approved from several procurement rounds. These projects have a realistic potential to supply 2.6TWh of electricity every year to the French grid.
Of the 288 projects, 35 projects are on-shore wind installations of ~750MW in total, won at a competitive bid price of $68.76 /mega-watt hour (MWh); and 88 projects are on-ground solar installations of ~650MW, won at a competitive bid of $67.88/MWh. Other solar schemes comprise ~12MW of distributed solar PV, 104MW through innovative solar model and others.
Relief for projects under construction
In addition to new project awards, the Ministry has extended the completion timelines of under-construction projects awarded in earlier rounds of auctions. Ministry shall announce a fixed window of extension specific to each sector say, wind and solar.
Capacities lined up for future auctions
France follows Multiannual Energy Plan (abbreviated as PPE) which sets out the objectives for 2019–2023 and 2024–2028 periods. PPE defines the main energy objectives and priority actions for the next ten years, and it carries a regulatory value. Through PPE, the French Government aims to decrease energy consumption by 14% by 2028. To fasten the penetration of renewable electricity in total electricity mix, PPE aims to increase installed RE power generation to 74GW in 2023, i.e. +50% compared to 2017; and 102GW–113GW in 2028, double the 2017 amount. The net addition in the ten-year period shall be around 50MW-60MW. This includes installation of around 65,000–100,000 distributed solar PV projects. The final version of the PPE published on 23 April 2020 foresees 2GW per year for on-ground solar PV plants, 0.9GW per year for large roof installations, and 350MW per year for installations on small and medium size roofs (of capacity less than 100kW) till 2028.
The chart below shows the number of projects and capacities awarded in April 2020, under different technologies.
France through its recent PPE proposes to follow the tender schedule below until 2023 for on-ground solar PV. The government shall next review PPE targets and schedule in 2023.