Sunny Days Ahead

Southeast Asia’s solar market poised for strong growth

Owing to its geographic location, Southeast Asia (SEA) has high solar power potential, estimated at 41 TWh. Even so, solar power development was limited in the region due to greater focus on fossil fuels and hydropower. In the past two years, however, there has been a surge in solar power capacity despite the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, solar power ca­­pacity more than doubled in 2020, in­creasing from 10,404 MW at the end of 2019 to reach 22,850 MW at the end of 2020, according to data released by the In­ternational Renewable Energy Agency.

The most impressive growth has been in Vie­tnam, where the capacity has inc­re­ased from just 4,898 MW at the end of 2019 to more than 15,000 MW in 2020. This is largely due to the country’s attractive feed-in tariff (FiT) policy, which, ac­cording to media reports, led to 6 GW of rooftop solar additions in the month of December 2020 alone. Other important solar markets in the region with large ins­talled solar capacities after Vietnam are Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines with 2,988 MW, 1,493 MW and 1,048 MW of installed capacities respectively. In ad­dition, Singapore (329 MW) and In­donesia (172 MW) are emerging as attra­ctive destinations for solar investments with many large and small projects under development. Owing to the geography of the en­tire region, along with land limitations and availability of ample waterbodies, many large floating solar projects are being de­veloped in SEA. Some of these have a capacity of more than 1 GW.

Renewable Watch assesses the upcoming solar projects across various segme­nts in the key SEA markets…

Vietnam: In April 2020, the Vietnamese government finalised new solar FiT rates after the expiry of the earlier rates in June 2019. These tariffs are lower than the earlier tariffs and differ according to categories. Many projects were announced in 2021 after the massive capacity deployment in 2020. For instance, Clime Capital Management Private Limited invested in the development of a 500 MWp floating solar project coupled with a 200 MWh battery storage system, in Dong Nai pro­vince, which is being developed by Blue­leaf Energy.

Further, the 500 MW KN Ia Ly-Gia Lai solar power project has been approved, which will be built on the Ia Ly hydropower reservoir’s water surface. Ten more solar power projects with a total capacity of 1,125 MWp are being planned in the area, while 25 projects with a total capacity of 4,563 MWp have been cleared for surveys.

Malaysia: In Malaysia, the solar power pipeline has been largely determined by the large-scale solar (LSS) programme, which is the country’s competitive bidding programme aimed at driving down the cost of large solar projects. Malaysia’s En­ergy Commission (EC) announced the shortlisted bidders for 1 GW of solar projects in the latest fourth round of its LSS programme in March 2021. Thirty bidders were pre-selected in two categories (10-30 MW and 30-50 MW) with a total of 823 MW of generating capacity. Development work has already started on some of the projects under the LSS scheme. For in­stance, Solarvest Holdings Bhd has reportedly secured a few construction co­ntracts for these projects. These include a 50 MW solar project at Kedah awarded by TNB Engineering Corporation Sdn Bhd, a unit of Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB), and another 50 MW project at Chuping for Classic Solar Farm Sdn Bhd. Further, Sol­arvest has signed a 21-year power pur­chase agreement (PPA) with TNB for 50 MW of solar projects – two projects in Pe­rak on the western coast of Malaysia and one in the state of Selangor.

In addition, in March 2021, the development of a 450 MW solar PV power plant in the the Pengerang municipal area in Johor Bahru was announced under the 2030 Johor Sustainable Development Plan. In February 2021, Malaysia-based Coara Solar commenced the developme­nt of a 116 MW solar project in Teren­g­ganu, in the northeast of Malaysia. The project is being developed in association with Ibvogt under LSS3.

Philippines: The Philippines has a target of achieving 15.3 GW of renewable en­e­rgy capacity by 2030. The country is pro­mo­ting large-scale solar power deployment to achieve this target. Many large projects have been announced for the year 2021, some of which are already under construction. The biggest of these – the 2 GW Batangas 3 Solar baseload plant project with a 6,000 hour battery energy storage system and 600 MW diesel backup – is coming up in Nasugbu in Batangas city. It is proposed to be de­veloped by Solar Philippines. Another company, SunAsia Energy, has partnered with Singapore-based Blueleaf Energy to build a 1.25 GW solar energy portfolio in Luzon, on which construction is scheduled to begin in 2022.

Most recently, AC Energy Corporation (ACEN), a subsidiary of Ayala Corpo-ration, began construction on the 283 MW San Marcelino solar farm in Zambales pro­vince. This area has an expansion potential of up to 700 MW. Besides, ACEN and CleanTech Global Renewables Incor­porated have formed a joint venture called Natures Renewable Energy Deve­lop­ment Corporation to work on a 200 MW solar project in Cagayan province. ACEN along with Citicore Power Incorpo­rated also started construction work on the 72 MW Arayat-Mexico solar farm in Pam­panga this year. The Meralco Powergen Corpo­ration is currently working on the development of four solar farms, of 78 MW (Rizal), 54 MW (Cordon), 19 MW (Nueva Ecija) and 50 MW (Ilocos Norte). In July 2021, the Global Business Power Corporation started construction of a 115 MW solar project in Rizal.

Singapore: Singapore has a goal of deploying at least 2 GWp of solar by 2030. Rooftop solar and floating solar projects are key to achieving this target in this land-constrained country and most developments are taking place in these two segments. An important government programme for the development of solar energy is the SolarNova project, which is being led by the Housing Development Block (HDB) and the Singapore Econo­mic Development Board (EDB). In March 2021, the HDB launched its sixth tender to install solar panels across 1,198 blocks and 57 government sites that will add 70 MWp of solar capacity.

In March 2021, Singapore’s solar energy firm Sunseap Group signed a long-term agreement with Amazon to export solar energy through the national grid. The Su­n­seap Group is installing solar systems across Singapore under a contract awar­ded by JTC in 2020. The project will generate 62 MWp of solar energy and is to be completed by 2022. The Sunseap Gr­oup also signed a contract with Face­book to supply power from its 5 MWp offshore floating solar project located in the Straits of Johor. In August 2021, the Pu­blic Utili­ties Board (PUB) anno­un­ced its plan to develop two large-scale floating solar farms – a 100 MWp project at the Lower Seletar reservoir and a 44 MWp project at the Pandan reservoir. PUB in­tends to award a tender to investigate the feasibility of the solar farms by the end of 2021. Further, JTC and Shell Singapore have signed a non-binding MoU to evaluate the establishment of a 72 MWp solar farm on a portion of the Semakau landfill in Singapore. This will also be Singa­pore’s first large-scale solar project to utilise a sanitary landfill to generate rene­wable electricity.

Indonesia: The latest Electricity Supply Procurement Plan (RUPTL 2021-2030), approved in early October 2021, targets to add non-hydro renewable capacity of over 9 GW by 2030, of which 4.68 GW will be contributed by solar. Along with this policy development, there has been growing investor interest over the past few months in this nascent solar market with many notable projects proposed. The big­gest announcement came in October 2021, when a consortium led by the Sun­seap Group signed an MoU to develop 7 GWp of solar PV projects with energy storage facilities in Indonesia to transport en­ergy to Singapore via a proposed subsea cable. Other signatories of the MoU inclu­de Sumitomo Corpora­tion, Samsung C&T Corporation, Oriens As­set Manage­ment and Durapower. The proposed solar and storage facilities will be developed on the Riau Islands. This will include Sun­seap’s giant 2.2 GWp floating solar complex with 4 GWh of battery storage on Indonesia’s Batam Island.

In addition, Masdar Clean Energy’s 145 MW Cirata floating solar plant is coming up in West Java, for which a PPA has been signed with PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN). Construction work on the project be­­gan in August 2021. Further, the Batam In­donesia Free Trade Zone Authority has signed an MoU to build another floating so­lar plant in Batam. Under this, PT Toba Bara Energi is building a 333 MW floating solar park at the Tembesi dam. In Banten, Krakatau Steel, which will use the 40 MW project to power the operations of its water treatment subsidiary, is building an­other fl­oating solar project. Moreover, the government, with the Institute for Essential Ser­vi­ces Reform, is working on the massive So­lar Archipelago (Surya Nusantara) plan. This $1 billion scheme targets the installati­on of a total of 1 GW of rooftop solar po­wer across the country’s reside­n­ces per year.

Outlook

According to the International Energy Ag­ency’s Southeast Asia Energy Outlook 2019, in the Stated Policies Scenario, the share of solar energy in the region’s total energy mix will increase from 1 per cent in 2018 to 5 per cent in 2040. The share of renewables in the total energy mix will rise from 24 per cent in 2018 to 30 per cent by 2040. The share of renewables can be increased up to 70 per cent by 2040, as estimated in the Sustainable Development Scenario with combined solar, wind and hydropower capacity additions of over 450 GW by 2040.

To enable this massive energy transition and increase the uptake of large-scale so­lar power, the right policy mechanisms need to be adopted to attract more private sector players and ensure transparent project allocation. Moreover, for greater penetration of solar power, grid systems need to be strengthened and energy storage needs to be integrated for greater flexibility to create sustainable energy systems of the future.

By Khushboo Goyal

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