There has been tremendous growth and interest in clean energy in Asia and Singapore over the past few years. To understand more about clean energy issues and trends, we have the privilege of interviewing Mr Stefan Mueller, Managing Director, Asia-Pacific of Conergy Renewable Energy Singapore.
About Conergy Renewable Energy Singapore
Conergy Renewable Energy Singapore has been established since 2006 and operates as Regional Headquarters for Hamburg-based Conergy AG. In the Asia-Pacific, Conergy offers a broad range of renewable energy solutions, serving customers from its satellite operations in Australia, China, India, Korea, Singapore and Thailand. Our office in Singapore serves as regional headquarters for the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East; and with a sales, engineering and operational unit for all other countries.
Since its entry into the Asia-Pacific market, Conergy-Asia Pacific has secured various milestones in a short timeframe of two years. Our renewable energy solutions range from building-integrated, grid-connect and off-grid photovoltaic to small wind power solutions. Deploying products with uncompromising quality and expert engineering, we design, install and maintain customised solutions for residential consumption, community projects or large commercial and industrial applications.
1. Singapore has been developing its clean energy industry over the past few years. How would you rate Singapore’s efforts? What are the challenges faced by Singapore? Where do you wish to see improvements in?
The clean energy industry in Singapore has a strong focus on manufacturing and less on market activity. This is similar to countries like Taiwan and Mainland China. However, countries leading in renewable energies, such as Germany and Spain invested in the market before manufacturing, which follows once market activity has developed – hence building a stable investment environment needed for cost-intensive production facilities. Singapore has good ideas, at present, clean energy certifications and programmes are emerging strongly here.
However, the threat of a “brain drain” syndrome is imminent. In any successful economy, human capital will inadvertently gravitate towards market activity and right now, there is minimal market activity in Singapore. This is largely due to a lack of incentives available for investors and consumers – which are all required for the market to be attractive in order to drive growth. Should this trend continue, a “brain drain” syndrome will occur, resulting in homegrown talent leaving Singapore in pursuit of other opportunities.
2. How has the clean energy market in Asia grown over the past 5 years? Where do you see it heading in the next 5 years?
The past five years have seen major players such as Korea and Japan taking the lead in large-scale developments in the global clean energy market. Korea has had especially strong market growth due to a good feed-in tariff. Aside from meeting energy needs, the Korean and Japanese governments are also taking the lead by committing themselves to clean energy targets and a diversified energy mix. China and Taiwan are also becoming strong players in the industry, but mostly in manufacturing.
Technology-wise, there has been a great increase in demand for innovative off-grid renewable energy solutions in the region. India alone has a vast need for off-grid power with more than 13% of its 600,000 remote villages lacking electricity. Off-grid renewable energy solutions have also penetrated many industrial sectors in Malaysia and Indonesia that require efficient power in remote locations, or reliable electricity backups for diesel gensets.
3. What are the major Conergy projects in the Asia-Pacific region?
Conergy has just completed constructing Asia’s largest photovoltaic power plant in SinAn, South Korea with an installed capacity of 19.56 megawatts. The plant will be expanded to a total of 24 megawatts by year-end. We are also actively involved in rural electrification initiatives in India, where over 100,000 people from 250 remote villages have benefited from our solar-powered lighting systems in their homes and communities. In addition, industrial solutions in off-grid solar power are also a key area for us – for example, providing PV-and-wind hybrid systems to offshore oil and gas platforms in India, as well as off-grid photovoltaic systems for telecom repeater stations in Indonesia.
4. Which country do you think deserves to be Asia’s clean energy hub? What are the reasons?
Singapore has the potential to excel here, thanks to an ideal location in close proximity to major clean energy markets. In addition, Singapore has a strong network of resources ranging from a good education system and engineering infrastructure, to a stable government. Singapore’s banking and financial system is also one of the strongest in Asia, which makes it an ideal place for business due to a reliable and trusting environment.
5. What are your views on climate change and the role of clean energy?
Clean energy solutions can play a major role in mitigating carbon emissions and the effects of climate change. Solar energy for example is a very universal application that can be easily employed by both businesses as well as individuals. Photovoltaic applications are versatile enough to be installed in a variety of places and have little moving parts, thus requiring minimal maintenance.
However, clean energy solutions are just one facet of the solution in tackling climate change. They must be harnessed in combination with conscious acts by individuals to use energy in an efficient way. Such acts will involve exploring alternative means of transport, energy-efficient applications in households and regulated air-conditioning temperatures.
6. Clean energy investment could be the next dotcom bubble. Do you agree?
Much like the dotcom bubble of the ’90s, the clean energy industry is advancing rapidly, with an annual growth rate globally of approximately 50%. However, unlike the dotcom industry, clean energy is neither a fad nor a ‘bubble’ – it comprises real technologies and practical solutions driven not only by market forces, but also strong energy needs and depleting environmental resources. Analysts predict that grid parity (the point at which conventional energy and solar energy prices will converge in developed countries) will take place between 2012 and 2015 – by then, the market will change dynamically again. Solar energy will then be regarded as a mass commodity, as opposed to the new technology it is now.
7. Please describe Conergy’s green initiatives and practices in Singapore.
As a clean energy company, we recognise that business operations contribute significantly to the inefficient use of energy. We’ve adopted energy efficiency measures in our workplace – such as making the switch to 100% recycled printing paper, encouraging recycling and using energy-efficient and motion-sensor lighting. We also make environmental awareness a part of our company culture and aim to spread its positive message to our employees, clients and stakeholders.
Education is also of key importance to us. Through our internal “Green Team” initiative, we circulate regular newsletters to our employees region-wide that share news and research on environmental topics. In addition, many of us are working actively in collaboration with the Singapore government and schools to encourage information exchange on clean energy issues and technologies. Through this exchange of ideas and knowledge transfer, we hope to boost the growth of clean energy here and also spread eco-awareness.
8. What advice would you give to companies and organisations who are interested to go green?
I would advise companies to make sustainability a core part of the organization’s corporate culture as this creates a rewarding, fulfilling environment for employees while fostering opportunities to sustain social and environmental resources. Workplace energy efficiency is a great way to start as business operations usually account for a large percentage of carbon emissions. Another key area would be donating time, funds and business resources towards helping our society’s underprivileged attain a sustainable future.
This interview is conducted with Mr Stefan Mueller, Managing Director, Asia-Pacific of Conergy Renewable Energy Singapore. Visit Conergy Renewable Energy Singapore’s website at http://singapore.conergy.com/.