Owing to its geographic location, the region of Southeast Asia (SEA) has high solar power potential, estimated at 41 TWh. Even so, solar power development has been severely limited historically due to the greater focus on fossil fuels and hydropower. However, there has been a massive increase in the past two years in solar power capacity despite the covid-19 pandemic. In fact, solar power capacity has 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 (IRENA).

The most impressive growth has been in Vietnam, where capacity has increased from just 4,898 MW by the end of 2019 to more than 15,000 MW as of 2020. This is mostly 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 other attractive destinations for solar investments with many large and small projects under development. Owing to the geography of the entire region with its land limitations and the availability of ample water bodies, many large floating solar projects, some of which have a capacity of more than a GW, are developing in SEA.

In this article, REGlobal assesses the upcoming solar projects across various segments in these 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 before 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 has invested in the development of a 500 MWp floating solar project coupled with a 200 MWh battery storage system, which is in Dong Nai Province and is being developed by Blueleaf Energy.

Further, the 500 MW KN Ia Ly-Gia Lai solar power project has also been approved, which will be built on 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 or LSS programme, which is the country’s competitive bidding programme to drive 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 large-scale solar (LSS) programme in March 2021. Thirty bidders were pre-selected in two categories (10 to 30 MW and 30 to 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 of the 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 solar projects, which will comprise 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 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.

The Philippines: The Philippines has a target of achieving 15.3 GW renewable energy capacity by 2030; therefore, the country is promoting large-scale solar power deployment to achieve this target. Many large projects have been announced for the year 2021; some are already under construction. The biggest of these is coming up in Nasugbu in Batangas city where Solar Philippines proposes to build the 2 GW Batangas 3 Solar Baseload Plant Project with a 6,000-hour battery energy storage system and 600 MW diesel back up. 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 Corporation, 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 the Cagayan province. ACEN along with Citicore Power Incorporated also started construction works on the 72 MW Arayat-Mexico solar farm in Pampanga this year. Another company Meralco Powergen Corporation is currently working on the development of four solar farms – 78 MW (Rizal), 54 MW (Cordon), 19 MW (Nueva Ecija) and 50 MW (Ilocos Norte). In July 2021, Global Business Power Corporation started construction on a 115 MW solar project in Rizal.

Singapore: Singapore has a goal ofdeploying 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 programme for the development of solar energy is the government’s SolarNova Project, which is being led by the Housing Development Block (HDB) and the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB). In March 2021, HDB launched its sixth tender to install solar panels across 1,198 blocks and 57 government sites that will add 70 MWp to 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. Sunseap group is installing solar systems across Singapore under a contract awarded by JTC last year. The project will generate 62 MWp of solar energy and is to be completed by 2022. In the following month, Sunseap Group signed a contract with Facebook to supply power from its 5 MWp offshore floating solar project located in the Straits of Johor in Singapore. In August 2021, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) announced that it would develop two large-scale floating solar farms – a 100 MWp project in Lower Seletar Reservoir and a 44 MWp project in Pandan Reservoir. PUB intends to award a tender to investigate the feasibility of the solar farms by the end of 2021. Further, JTC Corporation and Shell Singapore have signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (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 renewables 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 rising investor interest over the past few months in this nascent solar market with many notable projects proposed. The biggest of these announcements came in October 2021, when a consortium led by Sunseap Group signed a memorandum of understanding (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 in 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 power purchase agreement (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 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 USD1 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. However, this share of renewables can be increased up to 70 per cent by 2040, as estimated in the Sustainable Development Scenario with solar, wind and hydropower having combined capacity additions of over 450 GW by 2040.

To bring this massive energy transition and enable increased 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, to enable 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.