New setbacks have emerged in the PV sector due to pandemic
Photovoltaic (PV) plays a leading role in Southeast Asia’s fast-growing and dynamic markets (SEA). Countries in this region are rebuilding their economy and actively migrating towards green energy.
However, the pandemic has left the PV industry with a new set of challenges, such as the temporary price spike and difficulties in the supply chain, which may affect SEA’s energy transition.
Global Solar Council held a Solar International Dialogue of Southeast Asia to address the situation of PV markets in SEA. The event was hosted by Asian Photovoltaic Industry Association (APVIA). It featured presentations and a discussion from PV experts and stakeholders in SEA, covering the topics of policy, education, project management, technical aspects and finance.
During the virtual event, the participants were also engaged in a panel discussion titled ‘”Strategising PV in SEA – Next Chapter”, moderated by Frank Haugwitz from Asia Europe Clean Energy Advisory (AECEA), China.
Septia Buntara, a manager at the ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE), said the centre’s ASEAN Energy Outlook data collection was challenging. The 6th ASEAN Energy Outlook provided the public with an overview of the current energy landscape and possible scenarios for policymakers and other stakeholders. He revealed that the data was obtained from official submissions by member states.
“The standardisation of the data is quite different from one country to another country. The data is not the latest one that we can get. For example, we launched it in 2020, but the data comes from 2017,” said Septia.
However, he shared that, moving forward, the centre aimed to improve its method and establish ASEAN Energy Database System, a system that any stakeholder can directly update.
Strategies in PV industry
Dr Nguyen Thi Anh Phuong, the Chief Executive Officer of Tona Syntegra Solar, Vietnam, argued that every strategy needed a milestone. Whilst the Vietnamese government might have made the right decision to introduce a feed-in tariff (FiT) mechanism in the country, its long-term energy plan lacks the regulations to manage the milestones.
Apart from the milestones, she said the mindset of sustainable development was not brought into the strategic development. She emphasised the need to look at other aspects other than profitability in developing any projects.
“For the long-term planning, we should look into how we can integrate more VRE (variable renewable energy). For example, using some market design flexibility, improve some infrastructure from the grid and also talk deeper into the flexibility option from the existing coal and gas power plant,” said Dr Tharinya Supasa, the Project Lead at Agora Energiewende.
Prof Armin Aberle from the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore said the focus now was to act quickly on creating local jobs. He then explained that solar could be installed in various ways, including water and agricultural land.
“You may get a win-win situation. The farmer gets electricity and food. At the end of the day, like it or not, it has to make money,” said Aberle.
“To get out of Covid-19, we need to create millions of new jobs.”
Dynamics of Solar PV development
Dr Worajit Sethhapun, the Dean of the Asian Development College for Community Economy and Technology (adiCET) at Chiang Mai Rajabhat University, Thailand, shared that the changes in solar development happened very quickly.
“In our curriculum, we usually tie in both the basics and the application. For the application, my students will attend conferences to understand the trend. We then come back and talk together about the different ways of different applications, and they will do their research as well,” explained Worajit.
She agreed that the younger generation still needs to be provided with more understanding of energy generation. She shared that many of them were unaware that most of the electricity was generated from fossil fuel.
“Usually, when I teach, my first question would be ‘do you know where electricity comes from?’ and some of my students say from the dam. But, in Thailand, less than five per cent of electricity is coming from hydro,” she added.
Touching on agrivoltaics, she shared the successful experience of her students growing plants in an existing solar farm. However, she believed that the agricultural part needed to be planned way earlier to be more economical and easier for the farmers.
Aberle then shared that urban vertical farming, powered by renewable energy, was happening in Singapore as the country aimed to become more independent in almost everything, including food production.
He stated that bringing in greenery in the cities also helps to make the area cooler. Haugwitz added that the discussion from power generation to urban vertical farming proved that there was more than one thing solar could offer to the country.
“If you want to enhance the solar development in SEA, we need to focus on the value-added that we can provide,” said Septia, agreeing with the two.
He said since it would be challenging to touch on policies, public acceptance of solar utilisation (direct benefit from solar) could be used to put pressure on enhancing solar PV development.
“We cannot pursue solar PV only. We need to combine all our resources, and we need to maximise it to transit from fossil fuel to renewable energy. Hydropower, geothermal and power interconnection is the key to addressing the interconnection issue,” Septia added. — @Green