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Media Interview: SolarQuarter ASEAN Magazine

08 January 2021

7 January 2021In an exclusive interview with SolarQuarter ASEAN, Dr. Nuki Agya Utama, Executive Director at ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) threw light on ASEAN’s solar ambitions and plans, ACE’s initiatives for further development and integration of Solar for the region and the contribution of floating solar in attainment of the regions RE goals.


For ASEAN to achieve its renewable target of 23% by 2025, how important is the contribution and role of the Solar sector in particular?

Solar PV will play an important role in RE development. The installed capacity of Solar PV is growing due to the increased policy support mechanism in each AMS (ASEAN Member States).  In addition, under the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC)  Phase II that was recently endorsed at the 38th ASEAN Minister of Energy Meeting (AMEM), ASEAN has also set an additional renewable energy target of 35% RE share in power capacity by 2025.

What are some of the innovative technologies that the ASEAN region is adopting to encourage renewables?

AMS has been actively integrating energy storage systems into the grid to supply affordable,  reliable, and a higher share of renewable electricity. The type of energy storage and the level of advancement are various start from pump hydro to the battery and also different between states where Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand are the leading states in the deployment and research and development (R&D) of the energy storage system. Under the regional framework of ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) Phase II: 2021 – 2025, energy storage is highlighted as one of the new technologies to be explored in supporting the transition of ASEAN Power Grid (APG) towards the low carbon system.

Please tell us what steps have been taken by ASEAN Centre for Energy (ACE) recently to encourage the use of renewables in the region overall?

ACE has been engaging with our dialogue partners and international organisations in carrying out studies, building capacity and sharing information to ASEAN Energy Cooperation stakeholders. ACE has established strong partnerships with the Chinese, Japan, Korea, German, Norwegian and the  United States governments, as well as IRENA in promoting the role of renewable energy in the regional low-carbon transition. In particular, through the ASEAN German Energy Programme (AGEP), ASEAN Climate Change and Energy Project  (ACCEPT), USAID and collaboration with the China Renewable Energy Engineering Institute (CREEI), ACE has jointly published policy briefs, guidelines,  roadmap and reports that related to technical and policy studies. Besides, ACE is  also in collaboration with IRENA to publish a long-term RE roadmap. In addition,  ACE has been actively promoting the importance of renewable energy in  accelerating the ASEAN low-carbon transition through a seriesof webinars and focus group discussions, which can be checked in ACE’s websiteand social  media. These activitirs also inline with the new sub-theme of APAEC Phase II: 2021-2025, “Accelerating  Energy Transition and Strengthening Energy Resilience through Greater  Innovation and Cooperation”, renewable energy would be the focus of regional  energy cooperation.

Do you think floating solar can contribute towards the attainment of the region’s renewable target? If you think that floating solar could contribute, what steps  need to be taken?

ASEAN region is endowed with vast resources of solar and hydropower. Yet the development of solar farms is often challenged with land scarcity due to dense population and limited flat land. With such combinations of two in the existing hydroelectric plant would significantly increase the economy of the plant itself. The  co-locating of two could double the power output while not requiring new transmission infrastructure. From the technical side, the combination of solar and hydro could complement the intermittency of both sources thus could serve as firm capacity which would be the perfect solution for an isolated system with poor grid infrastructure. From a project development perspective, floating solar would be quicker to install compared to land-based solar because it is modular and needless intensive site preparation such as anchoring, and would be much cheaper because it does not involve the painful land acquisition process. To conclude, floating solar is a promising alternative and an efficient way to boost renewable energy capacity in ASEAN.

Since 2019, ACE has observed an upward trend of utility-scale floating solar development in ASEAN. The largest was announced by the ElectricityGenerating  Authority of Thailand (EGAT) to install 2.7 GW floating solar via 16 hydroelectric dams by 2037. Followed by Vietnam, with the auction of 400 MW floating solar and 47 MW floating solar in Binh Thuan province. In addition, the economic benefit of floating solar has made possible the relatively low solar tariff in Indonesia of USD  0.058/ kWh for 145 MW project and in Malaysia of USD 0.051/ kWh for 13 MW project.To further amplify the floating solar investment, it is time for ASEAN to gradually move away from subsidising fossil-fuel based power plants, to enable competitive ground for renewable energy.

What is your forecast on how the solar sector is going to grow in the next 5  years? 

Referring to the 6th ASEAN Energy Outlook (AEO6), solar capacity will rapidly grow at 10.4% per year under the  ASEAN National Target Scenario (ATS). Moreover, to achieve the regional renewable target, ASEAN has to add 50+GW of solar capacity by 2025. The aggressive solar development could be achieved by creating regional cooperation through the ASEAN Power Grid. In addition, there are existing solar cell manufacturers in this region, such as those in Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. I believe the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement will also help to boost the solar industry in this region. The agreement that aims to lower trade barriers, streamline processes and improve market access will enhance the business opportunities not only within the region but also between ASEAN and the signatory countries. The solar industry will hence benefit from the  RCEP.