February / March 2020 Director’s Note

The renewable energy sector is beginning to experience disruptions to its global supply chain as a result of the coronavirus, COVID-19.  Both wind and solar developers are being notified that delivery dates for components are extended (rather than cancelled). This is impacting Wisconsin already.

The PSC of Wisconsin learned from solar developer NextEra Energy that the 150MW Two Creeks solar farm will likely be delayed. Invenergy, the developer of the 300MW Badger Hollow solar project, declared force majeure on that project.  That is a clause in contracts allowing relief from contract obligations in unexpected extreme events.

As Wisconsin has 750 MW of large-scale solar farms approved for development and another 549 MW expected in the queue (see Projects, Jefferson County), project completion dates will be pushed out so that it will take longer to increase Wisconsin’s clean energy mix, lower its carbon emissions, and reduce costs.

At the same time, oil prices are plunging due to concern about reduced energy demand and surplus oil, given the economic downturns from the coronavirus.  Additionally, global carbon emissions could fall, at least temporarily, from reduced manufacturing, traffic and travel (especially to conferences and large events). Over a 4 week period since China has enacted measures to contain the virus, China has avoided 200 megatonnes or 25 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions.

As people shift to virtual meetings and other approaches, it will be interesting to note whether, after the epidemic has ended, some of these behavioral changes will be maintained or adopted by governments, businesses and organizations as effective practices and policies to reduce energy use and carbon emissions.

Sherrie Gruder