The STA continues to monitor an ever changing landscape brought on by the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, and is actively engaging with the Government, regulators and the industry to understand, inform and, where possible, mitigate disruption to members.

The STA is in daily contact with Government officials to raise industry concerns. Issues that are coming to light include how essential maintenance of solar parks will be handled, availability of spare equipment, impact on the construction industry as well as access for solar and energy storage companies to government support packages. This is a fast-moving situation and we will keep our members as informed as possible.

To help us to understand the impacts that the outbreak is having on the industry, please complete our survey.

Complete the Survey

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COVID-19: Bulletin

STA members can stay informed and get the latest on the Government’s policy and how it applies to your business by signing up for regular updates. Email Kara Davies to subscribe to our COVID-19 bulletin.

Subscribe to COVID-19 bulletin

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COVID-19: Impacts webinar series

The STA is running weekly webinars every Thursday to help our members stay informed and learn from each other on how to manage the impacts arising from the COVID-19 outbreak.

You can find further information on the next webinar here.

STA members can access an archive of previous webinars here.

Access the STA COVID-19 webinar archive

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O&M Resource Pooling

Many of our members are concerned about the continuity of operations and maintenance (O&M) activities during the current COVID-19 crisis. To help deal with this situation, the STA has made available resource to co-ordinate a member-led scheme to pool resources.

Our research suggests member businesses want to share O&M resources across three main key areas: high voltage, ground maintenance and low voltage, and we are confident this need can be matched by the available O&M expertise members are willing to supply.

In terms of members’ capacity, a large percentage of our O&M members have resources across the UK and cover ground-mount. Most members would be willing to exchange up to two members of staff on a case-by-case basis and would require a weeks’ notice.

Members say their preference would be for the STA to organise a working group to help co-ordinate this work, and have also asked the association to make direct business-to-business introductions. We are happy to be able to assist our members in this way.

If your business is interested in getting involved, please take a few minutes to complete the survey below.

Contact Cam Witten, Policy Manager, with any questions.

Complete the O&M survey

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Essential Worker Status

BEIS officials have now confirmed that O&M activities have essential worker status, under a broader utilities and electricity umbrella. The STA is now lobbying for the inclusion of routine domestic maintenance to gain essential worker status, where there is risk to essential services.

The latest guidence on how to access educational provision for essential worker households can be found here.

BEIS officials have advised that individual employers identify the essential workers needed to operate and maintain sites, and issue them with a letter to help them travel uninhibited. The STA has drafted a template letter for employers to issue to key workers, which can be downloaded here.

To help protect employees who are site based, businesses should follow the latest Public Health England guidance.

Contact Cam Witten, Policy Manager, with any questions.

Download the template letter for essential workers

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Construction works

Business Secretary Alok Sharma has issued a letter confirming official guidance on construction works:

“The Government has advised that wherever possible, people should work at home. However, we know that for many people working in construction their job requires them to travel to their place of work, and they can continue to do so. This is consistent with the Chief Medical Officer’s advice.’

‘To help ensure that it is safe for you to operate in your workplace, the industry has worked to develop Site Operating Procedures (SOP), which were published by the Construction Leadership Council. These align with the latest guidance from Public Health England. As this health guidance updates, the SOP will reflect any changes.”

Contact Cam Witten, Policy Manager, with any questions.

Download the latest site operating procedures

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Grid connections

The STA is aware that some members have projects with time-limited connection agreements, which may be at risk of over-running due to delays caused by staff shortages, a lack of available components and delays within the planning system.

If a project looks likely to miss a key milestone, the STA would expect the respective DNO to offer an extension period, and is actively engaging with DNOs to seek assurances that this would happen. Please do get in touch should you have specific concerns about a project.

Contact Cam Witten, Policy Manager, with any questions.

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Critical National Infrastructure

The Government is including all electricity generating stations of more than 100MW capacity to be classified as critical national infrastructure (CNI). As this scale, even the largest existing solar generating assets are excluded.

We are seeking detailed clarification from BEIS about what extras support designated CNI workers may receive, and asking them to consider whether is would be appropriate for CNI status to include portfolios of decentralised generation assets above 100MW capacity in the classification.

Contact Cam Witten, Policy Manager, with any questions.

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Government Business Support

The Government is seeking to support businesses and their employees with a package of measures during this period of disruption, with a dedicated website providing support, advice and information to help businesses deal with the impact of the spread of Covid-19.

Visit the Business Support site

 

A new scheme was recently announced to support self-employed people during this difficult period. The scheme will allow individuals to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. More information can be found here.

Income support for self-employed workers

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Business Readiness Bulletin

Prepared by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Business Intelligence and Readiness Directorate

Issue 4 – 19 March 2020

Specific information is available for businesses, who should read and follow the online guidance for employees, employers and businesses. Specific information for businesses in Wales and Scotland is also available. These pages are updated regularly. If you have a query that isn’t covered by this guidance you can contact the Business Support Helpline on 0300 456 3565

1. Business Support announced by the Chancellor

On 17th March, the Chancellor announced unprecedented support for business and workers – to support the economy and businesses large and small. You can find his full speech here.

The package of government-backed and guaranteed loans to support businesses, making available an initial £330bn of guarantees – equivalent to 15% of GDP. That support will be delivered through two main schemes:

  • To support liquidity amongst larger firms, a new lending facility with the Governor of the Bank of England to provide low cost, commercial paper.
  • To support lending to small and medium sized businesses, extending the new Business Interruption Loan Scheme announced at the Budget.

The Chancellor also announces tax cuts of nearly £20bn for British businesses.

The measures provide a comprehensive, coordinated and coherent response to what is a serious and evolving economic situation. As the wider economic picture becomes clearer, the government will do whatever it takes to get our nation through the impacts of COVID-19 and stand ready to announce further action wherever necessary.

2. Business Support Measures in Detail

We will keep you up to date with the latest information on how businesses can access support as further details become available.

Business Rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure

  • All businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will pay no business rates in England for 12 months from 1 April 2020.
  • There will be no rateable value threshold on this relief – businesses large and small will benefit.
  • Guidance for local authorities on the application of the holiday has been published. Any enquiries on eligibility for, or provision of, the reliefs should be directed to the relevant local authority.

Small Business Grant Scheme

  • The government will provide additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates.
  • This funding will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for small business rate relief (SBBR) or rural rate relief.
  • A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.
  • If your business is eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, you will be contacted by your Local Authority – you do not need to apply.
  • The Business Secretary will write to all Local Authorities by the end of the week with information on this scheme, and to encourage them to prepare to deliver this quickly.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

  • A new temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will launch next week to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts.
  • This will help ensure that eligible businesses facing short-term cash flow difficulties can continue to access finance as they respond to the temporary impact of the coronavirus outbreak on cash flow.
  • By providing an 80% government guarantee on eligible lending, this scheme will give lenders the confidence to keep lending to businesses. The government will provide as much capacity as required for this scheme. There will be no fee for lenders or borrowers to benefit from this guarantee.
  • The Scheme will support loans of up to £5 million in value. Businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as government will cover the first 6 months of interest payments.
  • The scheme is open to businesses with a turnover of less than £41m (as long as the business is long-term viable and is UK based) which meet the scheme’s eligibility criteria. Full details on the eligibility criteria will be announced shortly.

The first loans will be available next week and further details of the new scheme will be announced shortly. Businesses worried about accessing finance now should speak to their usual lender.

3. New Coronavirus Updates and Guidance

NEW – Government to grant permission for pubs and restaurants to operate as takeaways as part of coronavirus response.

  • Planning rules will be relaxed so pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak.

NEW – Temporary relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules: drivers supplying supermarkets

  • Temporary relaxation of the EU drivers’ hours rules for a 30 day period, for drivers supplying supermarkets with food and other essential items

NEW – Schools, colleges and early years settings to close

  • Schools will close from Monday, except for children of key workers and vulnerable children.
  • Examples of key workers include NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work to support the country’s fight to tackle coronavirus.
  • To support nurseries at this time, they will be eligible for a business rates holiday for one year and the Government will continue to pay funding to local authorities for free childcare entitlements.

NEW – Complete ban on evictions and additional protection for renters

NEW – Coronavirus (COVID-19) – delivering our public services

  • Our public-facing services are continuing to operate. On this page there will be updates if services are affected. Services include the redundancy payments helpline, bankruptcy and director interviews and support for business.

4. ACAS Webinars for Employers

Employers can join a free ACAS webinar ‘Coronavirus – an advisory webinar for employers’. The webinar provides practical advice for employers to help manage the impact of coronavirus in the workplace. It includes:-

  • steps that can help reduce the spread of the virus
  • effective ways of communicating with employees
  • self-isolating, time off, sickness certification and sick pay
  • altering working hours, shift patterns and working arrangements
  • remote working and the use of technology

Businesses can find out more and register here.

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Issue 3 – 17 March 2020

The Chancellor of the Exchequer will provide further advice for business today, Tuesday 17 March. Further information and links to the Chancellor’s statement will be circulated in tomorrow’s bulletin.

NEW – Exceptional travel advisory notice

  • The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises British people against all non-essential travel worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented international border closures and other restrictions. All countries may restrict travel without notice. Please continue to check FCO travel advice on GOV.UK for the latest updates.

NEWCOVID-19: guidance on social distancing and for vulnerable people

  • New guidance on social distancing for everyone in the UK and protecting older people and vulnerable people has been published. It advises on social distancing measures we should all be taking to reduce social interaction between people in order to reduce the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Employees should work from home, where possible; avoid large gatherings; and avoid non-essential use of public transport. Everyone should try to follow these measures as much as is pragmatic. Those who are over 70, have an underlying health condition or are pregnant, are strongly advised to follow the advice.
  • New guidance has been published for households with possible infection. You can find more information

Business Support

  • Businesses should read and follow the online guidance for employees, employers and businesses. If you have a query that isn’t covered by this guidance you can contact the Business Support Helpline on: 0300 456 3565
  • The Small Business Minister and Small Business Commissioner are calling on the UK’s big businesses to speed up payments to their small business suppliers wherever they can to ease COVID-19 related cash flow issues. You can find more information here.

NEW and Updated COVID-19 industry guidance

  • Following last week’s shift to the ‘delay’ phase of the action plan new and updated industry guidance has been published for specific sectors.

NEWProduction and supply of ventilator components

  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is looking for organisations who can support in the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the United Kingdom as part of the government’s response to COVID-19. If your business can help with the Prime Minister’s call for ventilator production, please visit https://ventilator.herokuapp.com to register your details.

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STA Business Continuity

In keeping with guidance from Public Health England regarding COVID-19, all STA staff are working from home until further notice. So far, we are keeping well.

Staff have full remote access to STA systems, and we would like to reassure our members that we are working harder than ever for our members and our services are unaffected.

STA staff are fully accessible within usual businesses hours, with telephone or video conferencing facilities available instead of face-to-face meetings.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for further clarification or information should you require it.