COVID -19 Industry Guidance

This page contains key information and guidance from the Scottish and UK Governments to help our members make decisions to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.

Industry Resilience Forum

We are holding regular Industry Resilience Forum meetings to ensure that our members have the best possible access to governments in Westminster and Edinburgh, and to provide an update on the work we have done on their behalf during the coronavirus pandemic.

Invitations to this Forum are being sent to members of all Forums. SR members can amend their forum preferences here.

  • It is important to note that we are raising issues with both governments as quickly as possible. Civil servants and Ministers are under considerable strain and we are seeing key staff being redeployed to coronavirus responses, which is impacting the rate at which we are receiving answers on behalf of our members.

Economic recovery

Both the Scottish and UK Governments are considering what the steps might be in the process to re-open the economy and are focussing on a ‘principles-based approach’. Both remain clear that the overriding priority is public health and that key data such as the reproduction rate of the illness will be what drives decision making. 

The Scottish Government has published a framework around decision making in relation to transitioning out of lockdown. It has also published guidance on testing which includes those engaged in energy supply in the priority framework, as in England and Wales.

Scottish Government Guidance

The Scottish Government has prepared a Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance hub which includes latest guidance for  businesses and employers.

Additional Funding support

The Scottish Government has announced a £100 million package of additional grant support for small and medium sized businesses and newly self-employed people that are ineligible for support from the UK Government or are not in receipt yet of the funds they need to survive.

They include a £34 million hardship fund for the newly self-employed, a £20 million fund for small and micro enterprises in the creative, tourism and hospitality sectors and £45 million for viable SMEs crucial to the Scottish economy which are vulnerable.  

This follows on from the publication of an open letter by the leaders of Scotland’s three enterprise agencies, outlining their initial commitments and actions to assist businesses during this difficult time. 

Applications for the grant funding and the latest information can be found here.

BEIS also publishes guidance for individuals and businesses in Scotland on its website.

Social distancing in the workplace

The Scottish Government has issued Coronavirus (COVID-19): business and social distancing guidance.

Construction

The Chief Medical Officer for Scotland has advised that all non-essential business sectors – like construction (unless it is essential construction, such as a hospital) – should close unless and until we can all be clear how operations can be undertaken safely and in a way that is fully compliant with social distancing. We will work with the construction sector, and others, to consider if it is possible to produce appropriate guidance on that specific point. Unless and until such guidance is issued, non-essential workplaces – including in particular, construction sites – should stay closed.

The Scottish Government has released updated construction sector guidance (May 1), providing further clarification on what constitutes an essential energy project. After describing a range of critical types of construction and maintenance work on the energy network, the guidance now states:

“All other energy construction works should be considered non-essential, for example, new build electricity substation and generation projects not due to commission or export within the next 12 months.”

Maintenance

On top of the previous guidance on business and social distancing, the Scottish Government has issued Coronavirus (COVID-19): construction sector guidance which sets out what are considered essential projects and states:

Essential projects include: 

the essential repair or maintenance or operation of critical infrastructure including: energy (electricity and gas) generation, transmission (including distribution) and supply; water treatment and networks; and telecom/broadband networks.  These works will be required to ensure near-term network security. However, any such project can only continue operating if it can comply with the guidance on the safety and welfare of people. Any site unable to meet these requirements must cease operations.

Ecological surveying

Onshore

There is a degree of confusion over whether or not ecological surveys can be undertaken at this time. The current guidance is that if the work is essential and can be undertaken in line with social distancing guidelines then the work may be undertaken. The uncertainty centres on whether or not ecological surveying is considered essential work.  SNH has now issued a note on ecological surveying, setting out when and how requirements for data may be softened in light of the current situation.

SNH has now issued a note on ecological surveying, setting out when and how requirements for data may be softened in light of the current situation. That has now been updated to include information on LVIA:

"LVIAs should be accompanied by the standard range of figures appropriate for the development. If you are unable to capture the required viewpoint photography for an LVIA and plan to submit an application without this, please discuss with the planning authority in the first instance, and we can advise if necessary."

Offshore

We have also received a reply from Graham Black, Director of Marine Scotland, setting out that its approach to consenting and licensing issues is pragmatic and proportionate, and at this particular time it understands the importance of this approach more than ever:

[Our] approach will depend upon the circumstances of each individual case and in making these case-by-case assessments we will strive to be as pragmatic as possible within the bounds of our duties and responsibilities.

Members who have particular concerns about the specific impact of COVID-19 on their projects are encouraged to contact their MS-LOT Case Officer who will be able to assist.

Support schemes

Scottish Government has confirmed that LCITP money that has been allocated will not be withdrawn. Developers are advised to keep documentary evidence of the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on their ability to meet LCITP deadlines at this early stage in the pandemic response. 

UK Government Guidance

The UK Government also has guidance on a range of subjects relating to coronavirus including employment and business.

Coronavirus business support finder

The UK Government has launched a coronavirus business support finder tool to help organisations easily access the financial support they are eligible for during thr coronavirus pandemic. 

The finder tool will ask business owners to fill out a simple online questionnaire, which can take minutes to complete, and they will then be directed to a list of all the financial support they may be eligible for.

UK Government departments are also hosting a series of free webinars to help businesses understand the support available. Keep up to date with all the latest available webinars here

UK Government Guidance on Social Distancing in the Workplace

The UK Government has issued guidiance on social distancing in the workplace which includes tailored advice on different scenarios and sectors, including construction and manufacturing. Please note that this differs to guidance in Scotland.

Construction

Guidance from the Construction Leadership Council and SafetyOn (outlined below) has now been made available, and UK Government advice is that construction work can continue if it is possible to do so safely and social distancing guidelines are observed.

UK Government support schemes - deadline requirements

We are being advised that Government is sympathetic to the issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Developers are advised to keep documentary evidence of the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on their ability to meet all support scheme deadlines during the pandemic response. 

CfD

The Low Carbon Contracts Company has published a letter outlining its response to the current emergency and confirming that it believes the Covid-19 outbreak is capable of constituting a Force Majeure event. The letter to Energy Minister Kwasi Kwarteng which we have co-signed sets out more detail on this issue, and we will update when we receive a response.

The consultation on the Contracts for Difference mechanism, as well as AR4, which is scheduled for 2021, will proceed in line with the existing timetable, although this is being kept under review. We will report back to our relevant Forums and update via this email should this situation change.

FiT

BEIS has provided an initial six-month extension to FiT projects by passing the Feed-in Tariffs (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020.  The extension applies to all technologies provided the project has a commissioning deadline between March-Sept 2020.

Daisy Cooper MP has asked the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy if he will extend the deadline in the Feed-in Tariffs (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 for commissioning new hydropower generating stations by an additional six months to reflect the seasonal nature of their construction. This has been followed up with BEIS and we are awaiting a reply.

RHI

Further to the proposals outlined in the Budget, the Government intends to bring forward legislation to extend the commissioning deadline for projects currently holding a Tariff Guarantee (TG), to grant these projects additional time to fully commission in light of delays caused by COVID-19. Extension of commissioning deadlines for projects currently holding a Tariff Guarantee is expected to be to at least mid-March 2021. Further details here.

Clarification on Coronavirus Reporting under RIDDOR

The HSE has issued new guidance on requirements for reporting cases of COVID-19 under RIDDOR. Our understanding of the guidance is that it makes clear that only specific cases of infection in a clinical or care setting appear to be reportable - noting particularly the reference to 'reasonable evidence'.

BEIS letter to manufacturers

Business Secretary Alok Sharma has written to those working in the UK's manufacturing sector to thank them for their work and contribution to the economy. In his letter, the BEIS Secretary confirms that there is no restriction on manufacturing continuing under the current rules and that Public Health England guidelines advise on how this can be done safely. Please see below for more detail and note the differing guidance applicable in Scotland.

Construction Leadership Council Guidance

The Construction Leadership Council's Site Operating Procedures Protecting Your Workforce During Coronavirus (Covid-19) guidance has been developed to introduce consistent measures on all construction sites in line with Government recommendations on social distancing and to ensure that employers and individuals make every effort to comply. 

These procedures are based on Public Health England guidance; other restrictions and advice may apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

PHE guidance for construction states:

“Where it is not possible to follow the social distancing guidelines in full in relation to a particular activity, you should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the site to continue to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission”.

"The health and safety requirements of any construction activity must not be compromised at this time. If an activity cannot be undertaken safely, it should not take place.

"Emergency services are also under great pressure and may not be able to respond as quickly as usual. This should be taken into consideration in the planning of work activities, first aid, fire and emergency responses.

"Organisations must have in place effective arrangements for monitoring and reviewing their compliance with Government and industry guidance. Sites should also remind the workforce at every opportunity of the Site Operating Procedures which are aimed at protecting them, their colleagues, families and the UK population."

SafetyOn Guidance

SafetyOn has developed guidance regarding site operations for the onshore wind sector as an essential contributor to the UK's energy sector and to ensure the industry's workforce can deliver their activities safely. This guidance is being updated regualrly and we would ask members to check the SafetyOn home page for the latest version.

It states:

The onshore wind industry must align with the latest relevant Government guidance, either national or devolved, regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the various measures implemented to mitigate infection rates and risk to public health. 

To allow critical workers to carry out their work safely, the following overriding considerations have been agreed:

  • the health, safety and wellbeing of the public and industry employees are the primary considerations in whatever we do,
  • it is accepted that the onshore wind industry provides an essential service relying on a critical workforce to do so. Therefore, we have an obligation to society to try to find a way to safely continue to operate, and in addition,
  • there is also a need to try to safeguard the wider economy, although this is a secondary consideration to health and safety of both the public and those employed in the industry
These guidelines have been developed by the industry and are supported by the Health and Safety Executives of the UK, these will be regularly reviewed and updated in line with and changes to Government Guidance.

ScotWind Leasing

Crown Estate Scotland has updated a statement on its website about the ScotWind Leasing process. It has also finalised the development of its online portal through which applications will be made. Further details of how to use this portal will be published when ScotWind Leasing launches.

Positive news from SR

Community groups across Scotland are using onshore wind farm community benefit funds to support families and help the vulnerable as the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic are being felt across the country. Read our full press release.

Please get in touch with Laura Russell, Communications Officer, if you would like us to help you promote the positive work our industry is doing during the coronavirus crisis.