The solar industry today is simultaneously troubled by the losses being incurred by manufacturers, and elated by the opening and growth of new markets for cheap solar panels. Bloomberg New Energy Finance convened its 2012 Solar Leadership Forum in tropical Singapore, a hub of the new south-east Asian frontier for both solar manufacturing and project development. We brought together 56 industry participants representing 11 countries, and including manufacturers, project developers and financiers, sovereign wealth funds and development agencies. The aim was to work with the Thought Leaders to explore and distill what can be done to expand the solar industry and bring it back into profit.
As CK Goh of the Singapore Economic Development Board noted in his keynote, there are two responses to new frontiers. “Two shoemakers arrived on an island”, he said, “where all the inhabitants went barefoot. The first shoemaker saw that there was no market for his services, and did not stay long. The second shoemaker exclaimed at the potential of the market – every single person was a potential customer! And he set up a business which became very successful.” Although there is currently less than 100MW of PV in the entire South-East Asian region excluding Thailand, that represents a tremendous opportunity, not a reason to stay away.
Singapore itself, with just five million people, will never be a large solar market but has an 80% green building target by 2030, is pioneering floating solar projects on reservoirs, and is exploring how to change regulations to enable “green trusts”, extending tax advantages to investors in a portfolio of solar projects. These could be on apartment buildings, structured to get around the problem of shared ownership to allow inhabitants to benefit from rooftop solar. The fundamental economics of solar in Singapore are already nearly there, as the country has no fuel subsidies and residential power is therefore priced at approximately $0.22 per kWh, taking it very close to grid parity at 8% cost of capital. It will not be long before Singapore becomes one of the world’s small but growing markets for new solar build.
There are many of these markets worldwide. The overall conclusion of the Forum was a sense that there will be considerable rewards for successfully planning for the long term in the solar industry.
Please download the full report for more detailed analysis and coverage of the 2012 Solar Leadership Forum.