Planning digital transformation during a pandemic
We are now entering a time of unpredictability and volatility for businesses, triggering the imagination when it comes to the impact of technology on private life, business and society.
In many cases, the coronavirus pandemic will bring into question how we use and engage with digital technologies, which have now become intimately entwined with business change.
To this extent ‘digital transformation’ has become a pleonasm and the next twelve months will be defined by businesses’ ability to survive in a time of uncertainty and a renewed quest for simplicity.
Simplicity is what is needed – in the form of simple messages, instant action, zero friction and a continuous stream of exciting and rewarding signature moments.
US overtakes China in number of COVID-19 cases
The US has overtaken China as the country with the most COVID-19 cases, as the number of confirmed cases reaches 86,000. The number of deaths in the US has reached 1,300.
US President Donald Trump has attributed this spike in cases to an increase in coronavirus testing. Despite this, the president has publicly said he hopes to have the country reopened by Easter Sunday.
22 states have now instructed residents to stay at home, only leaving to buy food or medical supplies. These measures are thought to affect 49% of the US population, according to Business Insider.
30% of US renewable energy operators cut workers
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) and Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), leading organisations working in the clean energy sector, have conducted separate surveys around major concerns in the US renewable sector caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.
Three-quarters of respondents reported some impact on their ability to qualify for credits amid coronavirus losses and 57% said the impact would be “significant” to their organisation.
In addition, about 30% of AEE’s members said they had reduced workforces in response to the pandemic, and almost 43% had completely stopped hiring.
In an open letter yesterday to Congress and the White House, AEE said that “like many other industries, the advanced energy industry is now reeling, facing unprecedented disruption and dislocation.”
AEE also reported that, urged by the pandemic industry disruption, some renewable energy companies have responded to the crisis and shifted their focus to emergency production of masks, ventilators, and other supplies in high demand.
Ten power industry events cancelled due to coronavirus
The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has had a profound effect on the power industry, not only in terms of revenues but also because increasing numbers of industry events are being cancelled or postponed.
Power Technology looks at ten of the most important global industry events of 2020 that have been cancelled or rescheduled because of the pandemic.
Coronavirus cybersecurity: Ten tips for secure remote working
As the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect numerous aspects of daily life, workers and employers are adapting to new ways of working.
Although social distancing and social isolation are key to slowing the spread of the virus, they have tested organisations’ infrastructure and remote working practices.
“Remote working on a scale we’ve never seen before has now become a fact of life; doing this without compromising security will be more important than ever,” says Jeremy Hendy, CEO at cybersecurity firm Skurio.
Here are ten key pieces of advice from experts from the cybersecurity industry to help organisations maintain robust security while remote working.
Energy UK halts all non-essential smart meter works
UK trade body Energy UK has halted all non-essential smart meter works due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Comparison services provider Uswitch energy expert Will Owen commented: “It’s no surprise that ‘non-essential’ work like the smart meters roll-out has been paused. The risk of engineers and consumers catching or spreading the virus is too great.
“However, if you have an urgent problem that needs fixing, it’s reassuring to know that workers will continue to fix smart meters in emergency situations such as loss of power supply.
“We trust that the government and Ofgem will be pragmatic about evaluating energy suppliers’ targets on smart meter installation, and in agreeing on new goals once the pandemic has passed.”
Energy suppliers have a fundamental role during Covid-19: E.ON CEO
In a press statement published today, E.ON CEO Johannes Teyssen has emphasised the importance of the energy sector during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, highlighting the important role of energy suppliers.
Teyssen said: “We will do everything we can to reliably maintain security of supply in this situation. Over 14,000 employees work in our networks and production facilities for our customers even in these difficult times. Politics and society can rely on us even in these times.”
Workers lack faith in energy companies’ resilience plans: Prospect survey
According to a survey carried out by UK trade union Prospect, key workers in the energy sector do not think their employers are carrying out adequate contingency plans to deal with the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Out of 1,000 responses, 48% are confident about the plans put in place to continue operations, with even lower figures among people working in electricity distribution networks.
Less than half of respondents believe that employers are enforcing appropriate safety measures such as reducing physical contact while 45% of them do not know if there shortage of personal protective equipment.
Covid-19 triggers 20% drop in oil demand
Early figures are suggesting that the outbreak of Covid-19 could have a significant impact on global oil demand, with Arij van Berkel, a director at US-based research firm Lux Research claiming that “early indications by traders suggest a 20% drop in demand.”
“In a sense, the current demand decrease is a preview of demand projections for 2030 and beyond,” he continued, noting that the outbreak could simply be accelerating a trend many have already predicted. “As an example, Barclays projects a global peak in oil demand between 2030 and 2035 followed by a steady demand reduction.
“We should watch how oil companies respond, as it will reveal vulnerabilities to decreasing demand and consistently low prices.”
Covid-19 shows how fundamental electricity is: IEA director
The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how much modern societies rely on electricity, said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.
In a press release published on Sunday, Birol commented that governments need to act if they want to maintain electricity security during the pandemic.
Measures include assessing the availability of flexibility resources and rewarding different sources – such as hydropower and nuclear gas – for their contribution to electricity security.
UK Government announces closure of non-essential businesses
Last night, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced more stringent, semi-lockdown measures for the UK to encourage social distancing.
These included only allowing people out of their homes to shop for basic necessities, exercise once a day, any medical appointments and to go to work if absolutely necessary.
To the end of discouraging people from leaving their houses for any other reasons, the UK Government closed all non-essential shops, including clothing and electronics retail stores, hair and beauty salons, and markets, except those selling food.
The police and other relevant authorities will be given powers to enforce these social distancing rules, including issuing out fines.
Global GDP may drop by 1% in 2020, says Goldman Sachs
Goldman Sachs expects global real gross domestic product to contract by about 1 per cent in 2020, a sharper economic decline than in the year following the 2008 global financial crisis.
“The coronacrisis or more precisely, the response to that crisis — represents a physical (as opposed to financial) constraint on economic activity that is unprecedented in postwar history,” the investment bank said in a note to its clients published late on Sunday according to India Today.
OECD expects economic fallout to be felt ‘for a long time to come’
Speaking to CNBC, the OECD’s secretary general, Angel Gurria, stated: “What you have is an economic effect now that, very clearly, is going to be prolonged beyond the period of the pandemic.”
“We’ll hopefully get rid of the pandemic in the next two or three months and then the question is how many unemployed (will there be), how many small and medium-sized enterprises will be in a very, very severe situation if not disappeared by that time.”
“Life, and economic activity, is not going to be normalized any time soon,” he said. “We’re going to have the impact of this crisis for a long time to come.”
Coronavirus outbreak to impact China’s battery storage production
The novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has caused a slowdown of China’s economic growth, and with China being a global manufacturing hub, is having a negative impact on the world economic growth as well. The majority of the factories remain closed or are not able to attain full production capacity due to shortage of staff and raw materials. These actions have negatively impacted stock markets across the world. Corresponding to the spread of this coronavirus outbreak, risks are on the rise.
The current scenario in China is going to have an effect on the global clean energy sector, including renewable energy sources, battery energy storage, electric vehicles (EVs), and renewable heat and cooling. China is a world leader in renewable energy investment, which can be seen in the country’s wind power installation; wind turbine manufacturing and solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing. The country is increasing its portfolio of renewables, decreasing coal consumption, and enhancing efficiency in an effort to deal with carbon emissions. The Chinese Government has also been involved in numerous measures to boost strong battery manufacturing with the aim of being a leader in the global battery market.
China’s battery manufacturers, supported by the government’s industrial expansion vision, are coming up with massive battery production plants. CATL and BYD, two of the largest battery manufacturers in China, are widening their production capacities abroad backed by the Chinese Government. Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are the undisputed market leader in the electrochemical storage projects across the world. The global lithium-ion battery market is dominated by players such as Panasonic, LG Chem, Samsung SDI, BYD and CATL. Their position will strengthen over the next five years but with a tilt towards Chinese suppliers, led by BYD and CATL.
As of December 2019, the number of Li-ion battery megafactories that are in pipeline to 2029 stood at 115, with 88 of them in China. Europe’s planned Li-ion battery capacity is 348GWh by 2029, while China’s pipeline stands at 564GWh by 2028. The total Li-ion battery capacity which is under pipeline is equivalent to 39 million electric vehicles (EVs) by 2029. Encouraging government policies, huge manufacturing base, protectionist measures, along with rising demand for batteries augur well for the Chinese battery market.
China, a battery manufacturing powerhouse in the world, is now dealing with a slow down with the coronavirus outbreak. China’s major Li-ion manufacturing players, CATL and BYD, are faced with a high probability of additional production delays. China’s attempt to fight with the coronavirus outbreak has led to delayed production across a number of battery production facilities located in key coronavirus hit provinces. Even Tesla’s gigafactory in Shanghai is hinting of possible of supply shortages for the US, UK and Australia. The limitations on labour movement will hit hard battery production facilities located in the coronavirus hit provinces, which are expected to contribute to battery cell production this year. This coronavirus outbreak is expected to cost Chinese battery manufacturers with around 26GWh of output in 2020.
Most of China’s lead-acid battery manufacturers have restarted their production following the coronavirus outbreak. For example, Leoch, a major global manufacturer of lead-acid batteries has resumed operations of its five battery factories, including a Li-ion battery factory, in China.
When it comes to battery energy storage, China’s BYD has been a key supplier for the UK energy storage markets, and hence the company’s production losses in Q1 2020 could damage British developers. Also, in Australia, BYD has been involved in a number of energy storage projects that are in pipeline, hence affecting this country also.
Globally, carmakers are looking for independence from the current supremacy of Chinese battery manufacturers and aiming to secure their battery supply chains. The industry’s over-dependency on China has been showcased recently with the coronavirus outbreak leading to disruptions in the supply of components. China itself is expected to take a beating on the production of around one million vehicles. Many automakers are worried about this outbreak causing production halts. Fiat Chrysler stated that it was weeks apart from halting production of its European plant after the automaker found it difficult to source major parts from Chinese suppliers. Other major automakers such as PSA Group, General Motors, Daimler and Ford also have plants which produce parts in and around the Chinese province of Hubei, the epicentre of the Coronavirus outbreak.
Mainland Chinese markets witnessed a sharp fall on Monday, February 3rd after a trading break since January 23rd and the because of the coronavirus outbreak. The coronavirus outbreak has impacted the stock prices of major Chinese battery manufacturers and automakers. EV maker BYD’s share has devalued by 10% since January 25 2020. Shares of state-owned companies SAIC Motor and Chongqing Changan Automobile Co. Ltd devalued by 9.3% and 10%, respectively. While the shares of CATL has devalued by 32% since 6 February 2020, Chinese auto start-up Nio’s shares devalued by 54% since January 21 2020.
Enel’s net income increases by 17.4% amidst Covid-19 fears
Enel’s net ordinary income has gone up by 17.4%, with revenues increasing to €80.3m in 2019 from €75.5m in 2018.
In a press statement released yesterday, the Italian utility highlighted that the network, renewable and retail sectors were the group’s main drivers.
Infrastructure and networks operations in Latin America – especially due to the acquisition of subsidiary Enel Distribuição São Paulo – were among the main reasons for the revenue increase. Increased trading operations in Italy also generated €3m.
The company’s ordinary earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) increased by 10.8%, amounting to €17.9m in 2019.
The ordinary EBITDA increase, said Enel, is attributable to a €91m increase in the margin of Enel’s renewable subsidiary Enel Green Power, as well as a €34m increase in the margin of energy transformation provider Enel X.
Enel is unlikely to be excessively hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, said the CEO Francesco Starace.
In a conference call with analysts, Starace highlighted how operations, both regarding employees and assets, will continue to run smoothly, defining Enel as a “financially solid” group.
Starace said: “If our people and assets are able to face the crisis, our business will minimise risks both on a micro and macro level. Thanks to our business’s resilience, we can’t see any delay in our strategic planning, both in the long and short term.”
As reported by Bloomberg, Starace also added that the Covid-19 pandemic will not hinder efforts to transition to renewable energy.
He said: “The development of renewables has not slowed down. If in a few months, we have got the health situation under control, many investments will have to be accelerated.”
Canadian Solar reports limited impact from Covid-19
Canadian Solar, the world’s fifth-largest solar PV module manufacturer, has stated limited impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on its production facilities. The company, which has almost 73% of its manufacturing capability located in China, had faced severe disruptions from mid-January by way of capacity loss amid the Covid-19 carnage. The company’s share has devalued by more than 36% since January 15, 2020.
Globally, China is the biggest manufacturing economy that comprises of solar PV equipment manufacturing. The solar sector is expected to face the heat, given the tight capacity in solar equipment manufacturing. Of the top ten solar PV manufacturers (in terms of module shipments), the majority of them are China-based. These include Jinko Solar, JA Solar, Trina Solar, LONGi Solar, Risen Energy, GCL System and Suntech. Coronavirus-hit province Zhejiang is home to a few of JinkoSolar’s manufacturing works, the largest Solar Module Super League (SMSL), while JA Solar is also involved in manufacturing operations in this province.
While the country is beginning to get back to work at a slow pace after the coronavirus outbreak, many factories have not yet started operating at full capacity due to shortages of staff and raw materials. Solar PV manufacturers such as Trina Solar have alerted about production delays and LONGi Green has commented that there is no significant outcome on its solar PV panel sales and production, and its shipment targets will also not witness any change for this year.
On the contrary, Canadian Solar’s manufacturing subsidiaries in China are located in Changshu, Jiangsu province, which has not been seriously impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, hence were able to resume the production post extended Chinese New Year holidays.
In a company statement, the company stated that the impact on its delivery schedule is mostly limited to the capacity loss in the last week of January and the first ten days of February. Since mid-February production has been restarted and, with limited cases where the shipment schedule and/or product model needs amending, the company is now settled to make up for the lost production.
Canadian Solar is scheduled to announce its Q4 earnings result on March 26 2020, and it is to be seen if the Covid-19 pandemic in other countries and regions has any impact on the company’s order book and shipments. The company also has been preparing for any impact on the cross-border logistics and project construction timelines based on different country plans regarding self-quarantine and complete lockdowns amid this pandemic outburst.
UK’s electricity industry preparing for Covid-19 Impact
The UK Government is adopting all measures to tackle the adverse situation that might arise due to the ongoing spread of Covid-19 virus. This includes The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 that have been put in place to reduce the risk of further human-to-human transmission by keeping individuals in isolation.
The government also issued a ‘Stay at home guidance for households with possible coronavirus infection’ on March 12. As of 9am on 16 March, 44,105 people had been tested in the UK, of which 42,562 were confirmed to be negative and 1,543 tested positive. The risk level to the UK has been raised to high.
As many of the working population are preparing to work from home, the electricity demand pattern is expected to take a new shape. It is widely anticipated that the electricity demand in the coming weeks and months will largely resemble the consumption pattern on the weekends as more people stay at home.
According to an analysis by National Grid Electricity System Operator, demand across the UK would reduce if people continue to work remotely from home for another two months. It further anticipates the demand from the residential sector to increase and there could a sharp fall in the demand from commercial and industrial sectors. As a proactive measure, the National Grid has restricted its regular workforce from entering the control rooms to prevent any possible spread of the virus to its emergency response and critical operations teams.
Energy Networks Association (ENA), which represents UK electricity and gas network companies, has made a recent announcement that well-practised contingency plans are in place to ensure the companies render service continuously across the areas they serve. This includes adequate training of the manpower and systems needed to tackle outages or peak demand situations. The contingency plan also includes temporary camping at a specified place as required, where critical response teams will have adequate spares, food and bedding to ensure smooth system operations.
According to the latest report by the UK’s electricity regulator, the total annual electricity demand in the country stood at 352.1TWh. In terms of proportions of electricity demand by the consumer category, domestic demand has the largest share at 30%, followed by industrial demand at 26% and commercial demand at 21%.
The domestic demand includes residential customers whose consumption is generally high in the evening when most people are back from work. The consumption of the commercial and industrial sectors is high during the day. Experts believe that the total demand across the country will fall in coming days, mainly factored by the considerable reduction in industrial and commercial demand, which would likely be higher than the increase in domestic demand as people stay at home.
Globally, Covid-19 has affected the sourcing and supply chains across the power industry. Most of the Asian suppliers of renewable sector equipment are operating with a reduced load, and the developers in India, South Korea, Central Europe and others are witnessing logistical delays. However, the industry is not able to predict the long-term impact of Covid-19.
Coronavirus outbreak expected to hit the global solar supply chain
The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has caused a slowdown of China’s economic growth. The International Monetary Fund has cut China’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth outlook by 0.4% to 5.6% but also alerted of further alterations, taking into account the extent and magnitude of the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
The current scenario in the country is going to have an effect on its power demand and generation. China is a world leader in renewable energy investment. The country has proved itself as a leader in wind power installation, wind turbine manufacturing and solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing.
The country’s renewable power sector is experiencing the impact of the Covid-19, specifically wind and solar PV, which could witness lower capacity additions in Q1 2020 due to suspended manufacturing and construction works.
China is a leader in terms of solar PV installations and the production of solar PV panels. The country has the largest installed solar power capacity of more than 205GW, contributing more than 35% of the global installations. China’s annual installation was expected to be approximately 30GW in 2020 and the outbreak is likely to impact solar installations at the end of the year in 2020.
Globally, China is the biggest manufacturing economy, including solar PV equipment manufacturing. The solar sector is expected to face the heat, given the tight capacity in solar equipment manufacturing. Of the top ten solar PV manufacturers in terms of module shipments, the majority of them are China-based. These include Jinko Solar, JA Solar, Trina Solar, LONGi Solar, Risen Energy, GCL System and Suntech. Coronavirus-hit province Zhejiang is home to a few of Jinko Solar’s manufacturing works, the largest Solar Module Super League (SMSL), while JA Solar is also involved in manufacturing operations in the province.
Post Covid-19 outbreak, the Jiangsu province in China took the hardest hit in terms of solar PV production capacity as more than 60% of the country’s solar PV panels are made here as per the Gofa institute, a part of the Chinese government’s National Energy Administration (NEA).
The key manufacturing hubs in the Jiangsu province include Canadian Solar, LONGi Group, Trina Solar, Q-CELLS and JA Solar. Due to the outbreak, the solar power market has concerns with regards to material supply shortage and logistical restrictions due to closed borders, which could increase the price of solar modules that otherwise was rapidly plunging. The shortage will delay equipment deliveries and affect the solar sector’s global supply chain.
While the country is beginning to get back to work at a slow pace after the coronavirus outbreak, many factories have not yet started operating at a full capacity due to shortage of staff and raw materials. Solar PV manufacturers such as Trina Solar has alerted about production delays and LONGi Green has commented that there is no significant outcome on its solar PV panel sales and production and its shipment targets will also not experience any changes this year.
The NEA and the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) have notified about the threats coronavirus outbreak poses to the power industry and the Chinese Photovoltaic Industry Association (CPIA) has recommended the Chinese government to delay connection deadlines of large-scale solar power projects on March 31 and June 30. In the current situation, late project completion will impact the amount of subsidies received.
The coronavirus outbreak will affect the overall supply chain and solar installations not only in China but globally, mostly the in the US and other countries such as India and Australia, heavily dependent on Chinese raw materials and components. Many solar manufacturing plants located outside of China are dependent on Chinese imports for raw materials such as aluminium framing and solar PV glass.
With more than 75GW installed as of 2019, the US is majorly dependent on solar PV panel production from China. The country is already facing supply bottleneck since the extension in PTC and ITC granted in December 2019. The Q1 production delays due to extended Chinese New Year Holidays as a result of the coronavirus outbreak will worsen the situation for the US developers who will be forced to look out for alternative sourcing avenues.
Mitigating Covid-19 impact on global supply chain is GE’s priority
Global and regional markets are experiencing a negative sentiment as the Covid-19 pandemic sets out economic stagnation among several countries. Covid-19 spread across US and Europe has resulted in new levels of market volatility.
Covid-19 has so far affected the technology companies involved in sourcing semiconductors, chips, auto-parts and software globally. However, the impact is set out to reach all businesses, including large Industrial houses and conglomerates such as General Electric (GE), Siemens, Honeywell, 3M and Mitsubishi Electric.
In a recent investor call, GE discussed its updated outlook for 2020 and 2021. The company expects a negative impact of $300m-$500m to its overall industrial segment’s Q1 2020 free cash flow due to coronavirus. The company has been working to address various internal and external challenges, including geopolitical pressures, increased adoption of renewable off-grid systems, issues with project execution and excess capacity in the industry.
Over the last two years, GE has been engaged in a huge restructuring in the electric power market. In October 2018, the company split its power segment into two divisions – a gas power division and the second division that combines other power businesses, including steam, grid solutions, nuclear and power conversion.
In January 2019, the units that were handling electricity transmission and distribution, battery storage and solar power were moved from GE’s power segment to renewable segment. The renewable segment had previously handled the on and offshore wind turbines and hydropower and now manages the solar, battery and grid portfolio to deal with the transition towards clean energy and off-grid systems.
In 2019, the company’s conventional power segment recorded revenues of $18.6bn and a segment-level profit margin of 2.1%, while the renewable segment recorded revenues of $15.3bn and a loss margin of 4.3%.
In its recent investor call, GE mentioned that the company expects slight growth in the power segment’s revenues in 2020 and flat growth in 2021, with an improvement in the segment-level margin. GE’s power segment is expected to return to positive free cash flow in 2021, following years of negative numbers, including 2020.
The renewable segment forecasts that the capacity addition in solar, wind and new technology will continue to reduce the levelised cost of energy in the renewable market. GE is prepared for the clean energy future by keeping a comprehensive portfolio i.e. generation, storage and transmission capabilities under the same roof.
In the renewable segment, the company expects slight growth in 2020 and better growth in 2021, with an improved negative margin in 2020 and a break-even in 2021. GE’s renewable segment is expected to operate at negative free cash flow in 2020 and 2021. Managing the coronavirus impact on GE’s global supply chain will be a top priority for the renewable segment.
In the renewable segment, which operates the offshore wind turbine business, the company is confident about improving the segment’s overall operating margin. GE recently launched its 12MW turbine, Haliade-X, offering the best global energy conversion efficiency.
The renewable segment has commitments to some of the biggest global offshore players, including Orsted and Equinor-SSE. GE has been selected for approximately 5,000MW of capacity in Europe and the US. In addition to managing Covid-19 volatility, the company considers stronger project execution and operational improvement as its top priorities for 2020.