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Covid-19 Worsening Operations as USA Residential Solar Power Provider Sungevity Laid Off 387 Employees

published: 2020-04-06 18:30

Covid-19 has significantly impacted the solar industry of USA, and not only has it shaken up the progress in solar plant construction, but the pandemic will also lead to a substantial unemployed population. According to the data of Employment Development Department, residential solar power provider Sungevity has implemented a large-scale lay off due to the pandemic and poor operation performance, and fired 387 workers.

How did Sungevity perform as a company? Initially being in an unfavored position, Sungevity went bankrupt in 2017, and changed its name to Solar Spectrum, despite being formerly ranked as one of the best solar power providers. The company laid off 400 workers, which was equivalent to 2/3 of its total employees, after the bankruptcy, and reentered the market from the fortunate merging with another solar power company, Horizon Solar Power.  

Sungevity then subsequently acquired BrightCurrent, a solar power marketing company, Skyline Solar, a New Jersey solar power developer, as well as Hawaii Energy Connection and E-Gear, two solar power and energy storage suppliers, in order to expand its capacity.

Though according to the data provided by Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, Sungevity’s ranking in residential solar power since its bankruptcy in 2017 has plummeted from the 5th to the 10th, with merely 21MW of cumulative installed capacity in 2019.

Under the impact of Covid-19 and the stay-at-home order issued in California, the circumstance of Sungevity has deteriorated, with 349 workers in California, including installers, marketing teams, and roofers, being laid off, and another 38 from other states. As stated in its internal letter, Sungevity expressed that after the review on its internal situation, the company decided to implement a cutback, and will be dismissing “a large portion of workers” on March 27th, where the medical benefits for laid off workers will be canceled at the end of March.

The Covid-19 pandemic has also struck a heavy blow to major USA solar plants like SunPower, the second largest solar power provider in USA, as the company decided to reduce the salary of its executives, cancel the performance bonuses for its workers, revoke its financial guide for the 2020 fiscal year, and suspend recruitment regarding human recourses, with an anticipation of more than US$50 million saved in 2020. 

Despite the overcast, there are those who are “cautiously positive” regarding this current situation. SUNRUN, the longtime champion in USA residential solar power, believed that solar panels may become a countercyclical product during economic recession. CEO Lynn Jurich proposed an argument in February, which talked about how an economic recession might facilitate higher sales in solar panels, making it a method of expenditure reduction.  

There are little to no cases that can be referred to in the history, though the exact situation is happening in Australia right now. According to the data of Smart Energy, a solar retailer based in New South Wales, the sales of solar energy has increased by 41%, and the inquiry of batteries has had a 400% growth, indicating unprecedented demand over these items.

Nevertheless, it is still too soon to come to a conclusion under this incessant global pandemic and the pessimistic status in USA. Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables expressed that 1/3 of 5GW major solar programs will be delayed in USA this year in the worst case scenario.

 (Media: TechNews. Cover Photo Source: Sungevity)

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