Southeast Asia’s Solar Energy Plans to Gain More Momentum

The region, where power demand is expected to double by 2040, is striving to expand the share of renewable sources as developing nations seek affordable electricity while battling climate change. According to research and consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie, Southeast Asia’s cumulative solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity could nearly triple to 35.8 GW in 2024

November 01, 2019. By Huned

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The energy landscape continues to experience major shifts. Global energy demand continues to expand, especially in Asia. This is coupled with further electrification of transportation, industries and buildings. This demand could be met by increased supply of oil and gas, deployment of lower cost renewables and technological advancements in energy storage. There is also a greater focus on managing carbon emissions, even as renewable energy investments hit record highs. It was against this backdrop that the Singapore International Energy Week (SIEW) hosted its various sessions, held from October 29 to November 1 at Marina Bay Sands.

One of the important observations made at the SIEW was that Southeast Asia is accelerating plans to harness energy from the sun in the coming years as the cost of generating electricity from some solar power projects has become more affordable than gas-fired plants, officials and analysts said. The region, where power demand is expected to double by 2040, is striving to expand the share of renewable sources as developing nations seek affordable electricity while battling climate change.

According to research and consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie, Southeast Asia’s cumulative solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity could nearly triple to 35.8 GW in 2024 from an estimated 12.6 GW this year. Vietnam is reported to leading the pack with a cumulative solar PV installation of 5.5 GW by this year, or 44% of the total capacity in the region, as informed by Rishab Shrestha, Wood Mackenzie’s power and renewables analyst. This compares with 134 MW last year.

Among the encouraging signs for the solar industry was a recent auction for a 500 MW solar project in Malaysia of which 365 MW were bid at a price lower than the country’s average gas-powered electricity, said Yeo Bee Yin, Minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change. “For the first time in the history of Malaysia we have a large-scale solar energy cost that is less than gas. We now finally have an alternative energy that is cheaper than gas to replace our peak energy demand at midday,” Yeo said at the SIEW.

Meanwhile, Malaysia has set a target to increase its renewable energy in electricity generation from current 6% to 20% by 2025, and a majority of this would be driven by solar. The country also plans to open at least another 500 MW tender in the second quarter next year, Yeo said. Singapore has also targeted at least 2 GW peak of solar power capacity by 2030, or more than 10% of current peak electricity demand, potentially replacing natural gas which generates 95% of the country’s power now.

“This being presented by the Singapore authorities is very interesting as this points towards firm political determination to go towards a low-carbon economy in a constrained world,” said Francesco La Camera, Director-General of International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Keisuke Sadamori, the International Energy Agency (IEA) Director for Energy Markets and Security said: “There needs to be some good measures to ensure that investors feel confident that their money could be returned in a relatively reasonable period.”

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