COVID-19 had little impact on solar PPAs in 2020 says LevelTen Energy

solar ppa prices north america

LevelTen Energy released its Q4 PPA Price Index reports for North America and Europe, delivering the industry’s most comprehensive analysis of actual power purchase agreement (PPA) price offers in 16 renewable energy markets across the globe. Here are a few highlights.

North American PPA Prices Rose Throughout 2020. When COVID-19-related shutdowns began, many wondered what effect the pandemic would have on renewable energy PPA prices and development. With 2020 hindsight, LevelTen’s Q4 report reveals that the pandemic had a small impact on prices, and a larger impact on development timelines.

Starting in Q1 2020, solar PPA offer prices began to rise in the U.S. for the first time since LevelTen began reporting on PPA prices in Q2 2018, and that rise continued all year. Meanwhile, starting in Q2 2020, wind prices began a steeper increase than in previous quarters, ultimately surpassing solar prices by 5.3% in Q4. Year-over-year, the blended technology P25 Index of PPA offer prices rose 17.7%.

It would be easy to jump to the conclusion that COVID-19 was the cause of rising wind and solar offer prices, but it was only one of many factors. In this quarter’s survey of developers with projects on the LevelTen Marketplace, only 26% of respondents said they increased PPA prices to overcome financial challenges caused by COVID.

“In addition to disruptions caused by COVID, grid connection delays and permitting challenges have created a bottleneck for projects in areas where demand is high, creating supply constraints that have put upward pressure on prices,” said Rob Collier, Vice President of Developer Relations, LevelTen Energy. “In addition, many of the most economically competitive projects have already contracted with offtakers, leaving higher-priced projects available in the market.”

But about those timelines… One clear effect that COVID had was on renewable energy project timelines. In LevelTen’s developer survey, 59% of respondents said COVID delayed commercial operations dates, and 41% said it delayed PPA negotiations and executions.

“Some deals took a little longer than anticipated: procurement and finance teams were understandably focused on other priorities when shutdowns began, but as the world adjusted to a new normal, renewable energy transactions picked back up,” said Collier. “We don’t expect the rising prices to soften demand in 2021, as boards of directors, investors, governments, employees and consumers will continue to push for sustainability commitments that will require all large energy consumers to turn toward renewables.”

The takeaway? Organizations should not wait to act on their sustainability commitments. LevelTen anticipates that demand will outpace supply in 2021 and beyond, creating a seller’s market. If climate and right-to-operate risks weren’t already lighting fires under executive teams, the financial incentives for locking in the best projects now should be the catalyst for action. Corporations interested in securing a PPA should get in touch with LevelTen and our partners.

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