Bigger, more competitive solar market 'possible with Govt push'


June 6, 2015

SINGAPORE — By ramping up its push for the adoption of solar leasing across public agencies, the Government would drive the emergence of a more competitive market and spur more widespread take-up in the private sector, said experts.

Mr Nilesh Jadhav, programme director (EcoCampus) at the Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N), said the Government's first bulk tender consolidating demand across multiple agencies put out yesterday makes an impactful statement.

It will be a shot in the arm for the solar industry, and the winning bidder will be able to secure lower prices with the huge volume of orders, he said.

As a result, more parties would pay attention to the Singapore solar market, said Mr Nilesh. "This way, we can also attract solar companies from outside, which will bring in (better) quality of installations … the really good quality engineering solutions … will also be brought in," he added.

Besides lowering the overall cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment, Dr Thomas Reindl, deputy chief executive officer of the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS), said demand aggregation from the bulk tender would be effective in standardising, and therefore simplifying, the procurement process.

Both experts noted that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) is one of the biggest adopters of solar energy. "If we include HDB blocks, currently more than 50 per cent of the total solar capacity in Singapore is installed on government buildings," said Dr Reindl. He added: "It wouldn't make sense that every agency builds up and trains its own PV team on how to optimally call for a PV tender. The HDB has a long history in test bedding and rolling out solar PV systems, and therefore is naturally the (consolidating) agency."

Mr Nilesh also noted that the solar leasing model seemed to be the only model working well here, where building owners do not have to fork out high upfront costs and yet pay for cheaper green electricity.

Despite the relatively high adoption rates, there is potential for even more buildings to be powered by solar energy, said Dr Reindl. Citing two major documents — the Solar PV Roadmap by SERIS and the White Paper on solar and biomass by the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore — he said both papers "expect a market in the Gigawatt range by 2020".

Solar firms TODAY spoke to said they are keen to bid on the bulk tender. Having worked with the HDB on a handful of solar leasing contracts, Sunseap Leasing business development manager Shawn Tan said this particular bulk tender is attractive.

While Phoenix Solar said a tender of this size "merits close consideration", REC Solar's vice-president of sales and marketing in Asia-Pacific Jen Tan hopes the authorities would also focus on the quality and durability of the solar PV systems when evaluating the bids.