Power Line: Coronavirus stunts clean energy growth, and the news you’ve missed while reading about coronavirus

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Hello, and welcome to Power Line, a weekly clean-energy newsletter from Business Insider – now sent to you from the lonely isolation of an NYC apartment.

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Last week was a week. This week was a week. And next week? It will definitely be a week! Be sure to sign up for our healthcare newsletter Dispensed to follow all of our latest coronavirus coverage.

5 ways the novel coronavirus is impacting the clean-energy industry

Hint: Most of them are not great. Then again, no industry is immune to the impacts of a global pandemic.

1. It’s cratering demand for solar energy, mostly in China. 2. It’s driving down demand for electric cars, and the battery market will suffer as a result.

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  • “Global auto sales have been falling for the last two years, and this year we expect the single largest drop since the 2008 financial crisis,” a new BNEF report said.
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  • EVs won’t be spared, though they could fare better than combustion cars, BNEF says.
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  • The EV market constriction will trickle down to battery sales. In what BNEF calls a “pessimistic” scenario, demand for batteries in China – where much of the world’s EVs are made – will be 9 GW lower than the firm’s initial 2020 projections.

3. It temporarily stunted manufacturing of solar panels and wind turbines4. It spurred a price war that caused the price of oil to slide … and then slide some more. 5.

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  • The oil price shock “illustrates that fossil fuel investments are financially riskier and more speculative,” a financial analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said.
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  • This could shift investment over to clean energy, where stocks have been more stable.

It could shift investment away from dirty energy. .

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  • “This is a very dynamic situation and things will change, but the overall message is that the clean energy transition is moving forward – even with these little speed bumps,” said Atul Arya, the chief energy strategist at the research firm IHS Markit.
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  • “Will renewable growth stall because gas and oil are now more economically competitive? I would go back and look at very long-term trends, and the long-term trends favor renewables. The renewable transition is already underway,” Kathy Hipple, an analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said.
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  • “The clean-energy sector, similar to most all other industries, will not be immune to these impacts. But interestingly, this could fuel certain clean-tech developments, from autonomous electric vehicles to [renewable energy and] storage (for resiliency efforts),” Ron Pernick, the founder of the clean-energy stock indexing site Clean Edge, said.
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  • In early-to-mid February, solar panel factories in China were operating at 30% to 35% production capacity, an analyst at the research firm Wood Mackenzie told me.
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  • That will cause delays in shipments to countries outside the US, the analyst said.
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  • Companies in the US will be sheltered from these effects because they source most of their panels from other countries – namely, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand.
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  • BNEF says it will still be a record year for wind power installations, though the firm slightly lowered its 2020 forecast.
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  • “The size of the drop will depend on how quickly Chinese suppliers ramp-up to full production as staff slowly return from isolation,” BNEF said.
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  • Batteries: The US installed a record amount of energy storage systems, such as batteries, last year. “The home battery sector delivered the most striking growth,” Greentech Media reports.
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  • Batteries: The French energy giant Total is spending $17 million to build the world’s largest battery, Bloomberg reports. The company acquired Saft, a battery manufacturer, in 2016.
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  • Solar: Vivint Solar maintains its position as the second-largest residential solar company in the country. Last year, it installed 233 megawatts, which represents a 19% increase from 2018, the company said in its earnings call this week.
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  • Utilities: “Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, and Southern Company are not making investments consistent with their clean energy goals,” Utility Dive reports.
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  • Policy: The 555-page American Energy Innovation Act – a sweeping clean-energy legislative package – has stalled in the Senate, The Hill reports. Enveloping nearly 50 bills, the act would funnel billions of dollars towards clean energy.

Some good news: ‘The clean-energy transition is moving forward’

Anxiety? I’ve got it. And now that I’m working from home, there’s no one to judge me for stress-eating an entire container of chocolate covered almonds.

But I did take some comfort in hearing responses to this question: Will the coronavirus pandemic undermine the energy transition?

The top stories I almost missed while reading about coronavirus

That’s it. Have a great weekend, and stay safe.

– Benji