With the Covid-19 pandemic already affecting global economies, a leading analyst has predicted the eurozone will enter recession this year. With energy among the sectors in the crosshairs, Julian Jansen, head of energy storage research at business analyst firm IHS Markit, cited falling demand, supply chain squeezes and regulatory challenges as potential worries which could affect the energy storage and solar industries.
Although automotive and solar+storage customers may experience delays in the supply of battery cells from China, which hosts more than 70% of global production capacity, manufacturing is reportedly already restarting in the storage heartland.
It is an anticipated decline in demand which poses the bigger threat to the storage industry and is likely to kick in as early as three months’ time, according to IHS Markit. “The slowdown in demand for electric vehicles caused by the sudden halt in world trade will inevitably affect global demand for batteries,” said Jansen. “The future development of the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe and North America, as well as its global spread, creates further uncertainty and the impact on battery suppliers’ business will likely become more severe in the second quarter of 2020 as there will be a lack of new orders.”
That could, however, drive down the price of battery cells for stationary storage if manufacturers need to reduce inventory.
With domestic finances in turmoil for many quarantined citizens, IHS Markit said a strong start to the year for solar+storage installations was likely to be derailed by the coronavirus outbreak, even if some markets have reportedly experienced an orders boom. “Residential customers are facing quarantines and income uncertainty,” said Jansen. “With some of the largest global markets – Germany, Italy, the United States and the United Kingdom – particularly affected, IHS Markit expects residential storage installations in the second quarter of 2020 to reduce.”
IHS Markit quantified that prediction as an expected 10-15% decline in the number of new home solar+storage systems installed this year compared to last year in these markets.
Belt tightening will also take place among businesses as the economic fallout of the pandemic becomes clear, with Jansen predicting that commercial and industrial energy storage investment is also likely to suffer.
Network storage is likely to be the least affected by the current crisis. The business intelligence firm expects grid scale storage projects to proceed, albeit sometimes with delays of up to three months currently anticipated. If the battle to control the spread of Covid-19 takes longer than expected though, the consequences could become even more serious for front-of-meter projects.
In the solar industry, as with energy storage, falling demand is likely to exact a heavier long term cost than supply problems. Production levels for modules and inverters are likely to be lower than anticipated in 2020, due to Covid-19 disruption in the first half of the year. However, it is falling demand which is following the virus into Europe, the U.S. and India which is causing greater concern.
“While manufacturing has gradually returned, international demand has stalled alarmingly,” said IHS Markit. The industry will fervently hope that is down to the practical constraints caused by logistics problems and a lack of labor, rather than manifesting into a longer term pattern.