Pandemic Slows New Generation Construction

According to the latest report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), the issues surrounding COVID-19 have delayed construction of new electric generation projects.

“According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s March and April ‘Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory’ data, COVID-19 mitigation efforts have resulted in slightly more delays than average in the commercial operation dates of proposed electric generator projects,” the report said.

The report went on to note that, during 2018 and 2019, approximately 20% of projects, on average, scheduled to come online in the following 12 months experienced some delay. In April 2020, that had risen to 29%.

Specifically, “Sixty-one unique projects, with a total of 2.4 GW of generating capacity, under construction during March and April, were delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the report.

“Power plant construction workers are considered essential and critical infrastructure workers, and they were advised to follow Centers for Disease Control social distancing strategies while operating,” said the report. “However, the construction of electricity projects requires scheduling simultaneous and dependent activities that involve numerous components, equipment, and specialized workers. The impacts of COVID-19 mitigation efforts, including supply chain disruptions, permitting delays, and restricted travel of specialized workers, affected project scheduling and increased the risk of project delays.”

In fact, delays occurred in four areas specifically: planning, permitting, construction and testing, with construction being the primary cause of delay in March, and permitting being the primary cause of delay in April.

In order of “number of delayed units” in April, solar photovoltaic projects led the pack, followed by onshore wind turbines, “other,” batteries, natural gas combined cycle and natural gas combustion turbines.

In terms of “capacity of delayed units in gigawatts” in April, these were, in order: onshore wind turbine, solar photovoltaic, natural gas combined cycle, natural gas combustion turbine, batteries and “other.”

“In addition to delays as a result of limited personnel travel and changes in finances, the solar and wind industries have also been affected by shutdowns of local and international component manufacturers,” said the report. “Some factories that produce critical components for wind and solar PV projects have paused operations, resulting in project delays.”

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