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

  • 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.

South Korea seeks arrest of Samsung heir in succession probe

Updated 04 June 2020

South Korea seeks arrest of Samsung heir in succession probe

  • Jay Y. Lee faces a return to jail just a little over two years after being released from detention

SEOUL: South Korean prosecutors have requested an arrest warrant against Samsung Group heir Jay Y. Lee, they said on Thursday, in the investigation of a controversial 2015 merger and alleged accounting fraud in a suspected bid to aid his succession plans.
The move spells fresh trouble for Lee, who, if arrested, faces a return to jail just a little over two years after being released from detention in February 2018.
Lee already faces trial on a charge of bribery aimed at winning support to succeed ailing group patriarch Lee Kun-hee, and which involved former President Park Geun-hye, and spent a year in detention until the bribery case was suspended in 2018.
Prosecutors said they sought Lee’s arrest on suspicions of stock price manipulation and audit rule violations, among other offenses.
In a statement, Lee’s lawyers expressed “deep regret” at the prosecution’s decision to seek his arrest, adding that he had fully cooperated with the investigation while Samsung was going through management crises.
Prosecutors have been investigating suspected accounting fraud at drug company Samsung Biologics after the Korean financial watchdog complained the firm’s value had been inflated by $3.7 billion in 2015.
Prosecutors contend the violation helped boost the value of its major owner, Cheil Industries, which counted Lee as its top shareholder, and merged with Samsung C&T, a de facto holding firm, Yonhap news agency said.
Samsung requested an outside review of the investigation to weigh the validity of the indictment and the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office is following the necessary procedures, it said in a statement.
Last month, prosecutors questioned Lee, 51, over the latest investigation. He also apologized for a series of controversies around his succession planning.
Lee’s year in detention followed separate charges that he bribed Park to win government support for the 2015 merger which helped tighten his control of South Korea’s top conglomerate.