Cheaper solar power gains ground in southeast Asia

Cheaper solar power gains ground in southeast Asia
Crew members pose beside solar panels on the top deck of the Race for Water catamaran, the world’s largest maritime vessel to be powered solely by renewable energies. The vessel docked at the public pier in Hong Kong’s Central district on Oct. 25 on a stopover as part of a five-year round-the-world expedition. (AFP)
Updated 01 November 2019

Cheaper solar power gains ground in southeast Asia

Cheaper solar power gains ground in southeast Asia
  • The region is striving to expand the share of renewable sources

SINGAPORE: Southeast Asia is accelerating plans to harness energy from the sun in 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.

Southeast Asia’s cumulative solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity could nearly triple to 35.8 gigawatt (GW) in 2024 from an estimated 12.6 GW this year, consultancy Wood Mackenzie says.

Vietnam leads the pack with a cumulative solar PV installation of 5.5 GW by this year, or 44 percent of the total capacity in the region, said Rishab Shrestha, Woodmac’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 megawatt (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 costs that is less than gas, Yeo said at the Singapore International Energy Week.

“We now finally have an alternative energy that is cheaper than gas to replace our peak energy demand at midday.”

Malaysia has set a target to increase its renewable energy in electricity generation from current 6 percemt to 20 percent 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.

 

Peak demand

Singapore has also targeted at least 2 gigawatt (GW) peak of solar power capacity by 2030, or more than 10 percent of current peak electricity demand, potentially replacing natural gas which generates 95 percent of the country’s power now.

“This being presented by the (Singaporean) authorities is very interesting as this points toward firm political determination to go toward 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.”

Still, the mushrooming of solar PV in Vietnam has exceeded its grid capacity by 18 percent, Woodmac’s Shrestha said, underscoring the need for further investments across power sector.

“The approved capacity for the Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan provinces amounts to 5 GW, more than double the grid usable capacity,” he said.


German startup to help Saudi hotels utilize empty spaces

German start-up NeuSpace, established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates, is now working in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
German start-up NeuSpace, established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates, is now working in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 21 January 2021

German startup to help Saudi hotels utilize empty spaces

German start-up NeuSpace, established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates, is now working in Saudi Arabia. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • COVID-19 pandemic has brought slump in average hotel occupancy rates in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: A German start-up established during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic to help hotels overcome a slump in occupancy rates is now working in Saudi Arabia.

NeuSpace aims to assist operators in coming up with new ways to generate revenue from their empty spaces.

Anne Schaeflein, a co-founder of the Dusseldorf-based company, told Arab News: “For hotel properties still in the completion phase, we feel it is best to evaluate the perspective, and to diversify pre-opening.

“To be empathic to the existing (or planned) infrastructure and environment of the location, we run a feasibility study and look at how the space could be best used from an ROI (return on investment) as well as community perspective. Turning function spaces into day nurseries, delis, and bakeries,” she said.

Anne Schaeflein, Collaborative Founder NeuSpace. (Supplied)

According to the company’s website, it aims to address the needs of hotel investors, operators, and the wider community surrounding the property.

“We deliver quick solutions to retain some of the hospitality jobs, and add others, and offer attractive living space for communities, all within one to four months, depending on the individual projects,” the company said.

A report in November by global hotel data analysis company, STR, found that the average occupancy rate in Saudi Arabia was 34.7 percent, down 38.7 percent on the previous year. As a result, the average revenue per available room fell 35.5 percent year-on-year to SR172.70 ($46.05).

Looking to the future, real estate consultancy firm, Colliers International, has forecast that average occupancy rates in Riyadh and Alkhobar will be 55 percent, 51 percent in Jeddah and Madinah, and 37 percent in Makkah.

On innovative solutions, Schaeflein said the startup’s concept was formed around the key pillars of value preservation, creating new housing space, and innovative housing concepts.

She pointed out that the company looked at how areas such as roof gardens or social spaces could be used by the wider community, or how pools and spas not being used by guests could be utilized by local residents.

NeuSpace also studies how back-office services and facilities could be offered to residents to better utilize staffing levels. This could include offering dog-minding services, turning rooms into office or retail areas, or renting out restaurant and entertainment spaces when footfall was low.