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Coronavirus Impacts on Utilities
and Renewable Energy Producers

The rapid onset of the coronavirus crisis will have implications for the whole industry. This article covers the most recent critical information from officials.

Links to  important sites are here.

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to have strong impacts on both individuals at risk from the disease and on the economy. The stock market has continues to be unstable after a precipitous fall. US WTI crude oil is trading at around $24 a barrel after a steep drop in prices. The global financial outlook is uncertain at best.

Many industries around the world are shifting to remote working to contain the spread of the virus. Travel bans and quarantines are being mandated by governments. Numerous countries have gone into lockdown. It is early days yet but the robust action of China and South Korea do seem to have had an effect and fewer cases are being reported from those countries.

 

A Bulletin from Edison Electric Institute (EEI)

 

  • The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic 

  • Electric suppliers could find 40% of their workforce confined to their homes as the coronavirus continues to spread, according the bulletin issued from EEI which represents investor-owned utilities 

  • Energy sector companies are taking steps to mitigate the spread of the virus, with many cancelling international and domestic travel and limiting face-to-face meetings, moving to remote work and teleconferencing, and ramping up on-site hygiene protocols

 

US Official Guidelines and information

 

“Protecting the health and safety of America’s workforce is a key component of this Administration’s comprehensive approach to combating the coronavirus,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for OSHA Loren Sweatt. “This guidance outlines practical ways that employers and workers can address potential health risks from the coronavirus in their workplaces.”

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

This guidance is part of the US Department of Labor’s ongoing efforts to educate the workers and employers about the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • In addition to the guidance, OSHA recently launched a COVID-19 webpage that provides infection prevention information specifically for workers and employers, and is actively reviewing and responding to any complaints regarding workplace protection from novel coronavirus, as well as conducting outreach activities.

  • The Wage and Hour Division is providing information on common issues employers and employees face when responding to COVID-19, including effects on wages and hours worked under the Fair Labor Standards Act and job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

  • The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs has also published guidance for federal employees and outlines Federal Employees’ Compensation Act coverage as it relates to the novel coronavirus.

 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a COVID-19 resource page here.

The below infographic comes from their advice:

 
FERC Takes Action to Keep the Lights on

 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) announced today they are taking steps to ensure that operators of the bulk electric system can focus their resources on keeping people safe and the lights on during this unprecedented public health emergency.

FERC and NERC are using regulatory discretion to advise all registered entities that they will consider the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in complying with Reliability Standards as follows:

• The effects of the coronavirus will be considered an acceptable basis for non-compliance with obtaining and maintaining personnel certification, as required in Reliability Standard PER-003-2, for the period of March 1,

2020 to December 31, 2020. Registered entities should notify their Regional Entities and Reliability

Coordinators when using system operator personnel that are not NERC-certified.

• The effects of the coronavirus will be considered an acceptable reason for case-by-case non-compliance with Reliability Standard requirements involving periodic actions that would have been taken between March 1, 2020 and July 31, 2020. Registered entities should notify their Regional Entities of any periodic actions that will be missed during this period.

• Regional Entities will postpone on-site audits, certifications and other on-site activities at least until July 31, 2020. Registered entities should communicate any resource impacts associated with remote activities to their Regional Entities.

“FERC and NERC recognize the uncertainties regarding the response to and recovery from the coronavirus outbreak and will continue to evaluate the situation to determine whether to extend these dates. Our shared goal is to ensure all registered entities balance the concerns for the health and welfare of of their workforce while staying focused on the mission of supplying power to consumers across North America.”

 

The AWEA Writes a Strong Letter to Congress
about Industry Protection

 

THE AWEA is clearly worried that the longer-term impact on the renewables sector will have damaging effects and calls on Congress to take measures to protect businesses.

The most important part of the letter:

“Wind and solar are the central pillars of the clean grid of the future. The wind and solar industries are among the fastest growing industries in our country and are also among the fastest ways to reduce carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the COVID‐19 crisis is putting our economic momentum at risk. To avoid catastrophic job loss and keep our investments active, the solar and wind industries need to know that the policies previously provided by Congress remain available and usable despite delays in our schedules caused by the COVID‐19 crisis.

"The wind and solar industries are being harmed by delivery delays, necessary employee absences, serious financing concerns, and project cancellations or postponements. This is jeopardizing the jobs of our combined 364,000 workers, threatening to sidetrack tens of billions of dollars in investment. 

“As our first priority, our two industries are focusing on direct impacts of the COVID‐19 crisis. In that spirit, we are jointly asking for policies that can sustain our member companies’ ability to operate and keep planned investment and job‐generating deployment on track in the face of this crisis and realize the benefits that Congress has already created for the wind and solar industries.” AWEA Letter to Congress 18th March 2020

 

Homeworking is Beneficial in Many Ways

 

The tiny silver lining in the dark cloud is the acceleration of remote working that has been forced on many employers. People congregating in large, centralized workplaces was a consequence of the industrial revolution. Prior to that most workers were on farms, in homes (for example weavers) or small craft workshops. It is no longer necessary, and even beneficial, to have staff working from home with modern communications systems. 

  • Reduces daily commute, which many studies have shown to be unproductive

  • Cuts traffic pollution and congestion

  • Enables greater productivity from workers

For employers this reduces costs, and improves absenteeism and worker turnover

This is contrary to the common belief that homeworkers laze around in their pyjamas watching daytime TV. Professor Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University conducted a two-year experiment, where half the workers at a Chinese travel company worked from home and half commuted to the Shanghai office. The results were startling: the home workers were 30% more productive, had fewer days off, and stayed with the company longer. Though this was only one company, it shows how much benefit both workers and companies may derive from home working.

Remote Working Experiment

 

Important Links to Coronavirus Information:

 

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

https://www.energy.gov/coronavirus-hub

https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2020/03/f72/COVID_19_WorkHomeSchool_Guidance.pdf

 

The US offshore wind market is probably the most rapidly-developing renewable energy sector in the world. Follow #USOW20 for the latest news and expert opinions.

5th US Offshore Wind 2020 Conference and Supply Chain Exhibition

 

Your Gateway into the U.S. Offshore Wind Industry - Boston June 18-19, 2020

Join us at USOW20, the premier conference for businesses that are looking to invest, find partners or secure contracts in upcoming U.S. offshore wind projects. With over 2000 attendees and major decision-makers present, this is the most compelling event for anyone wanting in-depth insight into the expanding U.S. offshore wind market. Click here to find out more.

 

By Julian Jackson – writer on technology, arts, blockchain and cryptocurrencies

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