In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • US electricity demand fell to a near 17-year low last week due to the pandemic shutdown.
  • The UK’s and Germany’s solar panels have just produced record amounts of electricity.
  • It’s not all doom and gloom: 8minute Solar Energy expands development pipeline to 18 GW.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

US electricity use drops

US electricity demand is the lowest in a week since May 2003. It fell to 64,061 GWh during the week ended April 18, down 4.2% from the same week in 2019, according to the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) trade group.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said it expected commercial-sector power to fall by 4.7% and industrial demand to fall by 4.2% in 2020.

Residential electricity will only decline by about 0.8% in 2020, predicts the EIA, due to stay-at-home orders.

The EIA said it expects total US power consumption to fall by 3% in 2020 before rising almost 1% next year.

The EIA also reported today that “US consumption of petroleum products has fallen to its lowest level in decades because of measures that limit travel and because of the general economic slowdown” due to the pandemic. From January 1 to March 13, there has been a 40% decline of motor gasoline, a 20% decline of distillate fuel oil, and a 62% decline of jet fuel.

Solar records in Europe

Germany’s photovoltaic plants produced 32.227 GW on Monday (40% of the country’s power), which beat the country’s previous record on March 23. The UK broke its solar record on Monday at 9.68 GW. The previous record was 9.55 GW in May 2019.

Records are common in the spring due to sunny conditions and cool temperatures, but this year, it’s more significant due to lack of pollution, which can block sunshine and coat PV panels with dirt.

The German government forecasts that green energy will make up about 80% of the electricity mix by 2038, compared with just over 40% in 2019. (However, Germany still lags behind its European neighbors on ditching coal; Austria and Sweden just shut its last coal plants in the last week, for example. Germany intends to exit coal by 2038, but may do so sooner due to falling renewables prices.)

Chris Hewett, chief executive of the UK’s Solar Trade Association (STA), said:

Ideal weather conditions and lower levels of pollution than normal mean solar is providing record levels of cheap, clean power to the grid. At a time when most of us are working remotely, we can say that solar is truly keeping the Wi-Fi on.

The UK has now gone nearly two weeks without using any coal on its grid, said the STA.

Green shoots of solar growth

8minute Solar Energy, the largest privately-held developer of solar PV and storage projects in the US, added 3 GW of large-scale solar projects to its development pipeline in April, for a total of over 18 GW. That’s enough to provide power for 20 million people in California and the US Southwest.

8minute was the first company to beat the cost of fossil fuels with solar photovoltaics. In late 2019, it received approval for the Eland Solar & Storage Center north of Los Angeles, the lowest-cost solar and energy storage project in the US. 8minute intends to replicate this model across its pipeline to provide a reliable alternative for baseload power plants.

8minute recently raised new development capital from its joint venture partners to support its 18 GW development pipeline. Partners include JP Morgan Asset Management, Upper Bay Infrastructure Partners, and the University of California (UC) Office of the Chief Investment Officer of the Regents.

Mario Maselli and Marietta Moshiashvili, cofounders and managing partners of Upper Bay, which manages around $700 million of assets, said:

We are excited to partner with long-term, aligned capital to grow our platform investment in 8minute and accelerate the execution of several of 8minute’s next-generation solar power plants.

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