Rooftop solar has been a major success story over recent years, with over 50 million units installed on rooftops by 2019 according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The 2019 IEA report predicts that an estimated 1,200GW of installed renewable energy capacity would be added by 2024, with solar PV technologies accounting for 60% of that rise. Pioneering nations like Vietnam will be at the forefront of this journey.
“Vietnam has a strong and robust renewable energy program, growing economy, and high potential for electricity demand growth, making it the ideal market for ambitious renewable energy initiatives like rooftop solar,” said En Ir. Mohd Yusrizal, Managing Director of TNB Renewable Energy, speaking to Energy Watch in April.
That provides an avenue to low-carbon power without some of the land use challenges that solar power often faces
Rooftop solar technology allows businesses and economies to benefit from the unused space on top of commercial, industrial, and residential buildings, unlocking substantial renewable energy potential in urban environments. That provides an avenue to low-carbon power without some of the land use challenges that solar power often faces.
While COVID-19 has presented hurdles for this expected expansion, IEA analysis indicates rooftop solar still accounted for more than one-third (37%) of total solar PV capacity additions in 2020, illuminating the vital role that rooftop solar will play in growing global renewable energy capacity.
Investing in a future of solar power
Solar power installation is expected to continue to accelerate in 2021, with a record 117GW projected to be installed this year.
The transition towards low-carbon power has been an important focus of Malaysian utility TNB in recent years. A recent investment by subsidiary TNB Renewables sees the company entering Vietnam’s renewable energy market, with a 39% stake in five rooftop solar plants with a combined generation capacity of 21.6MW. This leverages an existing relationship with Singapore-based operator Sunseap Group, and reflects growing ambitions to expand TNB Renewables portfolio in Southeast Asia and across the globe.
“Collaboration has always been an important component for us. We see Sunseap as a partner which complements our offering. It is one of the biggest renewable energy developers within the region, with aspirations to grow further. They bring renewable energy development experience, innovation, and an established presence in multiple markets within the region,” said En Ir. Mohd Yusrizal.
With substantial investments in the UK market, along with other interests around the globe, TNB aims to expand on its global success to deliver total renewable energy generation capacity of 8.3 GW by 2025.
Vietnam is a uniquely exciting power market for investors and operators
Vietnam is a uniquely exciting power market for investors and operators. Rapid economic growth and evolving demographics means the country will need to more than double its total installed power generation capacity by 2030, making it one of the fastest growing demand markets in the world. Its position as a pioneer of renewable energy adoption in Southeast Asia, alongside favourable geography for both wind and solar power, further strengthen its potential.
Coal currently accounts for 38% of Vietnam’s power mix, so leveraging technologies such as solar and wind will be key in meeting the nation’s target of expanding renewable energy to 20% of electricity generation by 2030 while still meeting demand growth projections.
“Vietnam possesses 44% of the total renewable energy capacity in Southeast Asia, with 5GW of generation from solar. Vietnam’s Power Development Plan (PDP) 8 prioritises renewable energy development and provides a relatively friendly environment for investors,” said En Ir. Mohd Yusrizal.
“USD10 billion investment will be required annually to enable Vietnam’s renewable energy rollout, but the local landscape is encouraging. Vietnam allows for 100% foreign ownership, as well as the Vietnam Government providing tax release incentives for green energy initiatives. These policies and direction pose a good indication for the future healthy growth and stability of Vietnam’s RE market.”
Rooftop solar not only allows underutilised areas to be leveraged to produce power, it also places that power close to the point of demand. This is balanced somewhat by the limited capacity of such installations, and technical restrictions in optimising installations to appropriately track sunlight.
“Rooftop solar has great potential in the future, as solar technology gets stronger, and more people become interested in solar power. However, a close collaboration between utilities, grid owner, developers and investors is essential to ensure security and stability of the system remains intact,” said En Ir. Mohd Yusrizal.
Making the most of Southeast Asia’s sun
Rooftop solar potential is widespread throughout Southeast Asia, with its favourable geographical location providing significant solar energy generation capacity.
Malaysia is home to over 3.2 million landed properties, 45,000 shop lots, and 90,000 terrace factories, alongside 21,000 standalone factories and 1,000 shopping complexes. That reflects a significant rooftop estate for potential solar PV installations.
“We intend to bring back best practices to Malaysia and share the experience with the regulators, government, and the market in Malaysia”
“Exposure in other jurisdiction allows us to have different views or experience in development and asset management of renewable energy assets. Obviously, we intend to bring back best practices to Malaysia and share the experience with the regulators, government, as well as the market in Malaysia in general,” said En Ir. Mohd Yusrizal. This includes leveraging substantial experience in the UK renewable energy market, as well as markets such as Turkey, and the UAE.
The signs of growing adoption are already clear, with TNB subsidiary GSPARX indicating that installed rooftop capacity sign-up increased from under 30MW in 2019 to over 80MW by 2021. The company aspires to continue to grow aggressively in Malaysia, signing up and completing installation
TNB Renewable Energy is expanding that opportunity beyond the domestic market, with partnerships that build out green energy capacity across the region.
“Having a strong and reliable partner is very important for us. We are always looking to find valuable partners who can complement our offerings, particularly in breaking into new markets and expanding renewable energy opportunities. We are committed to working with parties in countries across South East Asia as we grow,” said En Ir. Mohd Yusrizal. “TNB Renewable Energy aspires to be the leading sustainable clean energy developer and asset manager in Malaysia and Southeast Asia, helping drive green energy adoption across this high-growth region.”
With the need to focus on energy transition over the coming years, rooftop solar offers a flexible solution that can be deployed in even the most complex urban environments.
TNB Renewable’s global experience offers some key learnings to steer that journey according En Ir. Mohd Yusrizal. “Involvement in other countries provides valuable exposure to electricity regulation, bid requirements, market rules, and business models adopted in other countries.”
This reveals the need for detailed assessments by the operator, particularly in a regulatory environment such as Vietnam which could be significantly different than the domestic Malaysian landscape. “This shows the importance of a detailed power system study. We can learn to focus and select the required scope and optimise implementation accordingly.”
Experience of these energy studies offers welcome insight which can be further applied to the Malaysian market
Experience of these energy studies offers welcome insight which can be further applied to the Malaysian market. That includes thorough analysis of the cost of solar modules, which can account for up to 50% of the total project cost, as well as the importance of having local partners to ensure efficient and high-quality installation.
What it also shows is the power of scale in delivering on this promise. “Solar is a volume game,” said En Ir. Mohd Yusrizal. “The bigger the volume a developer can construct or manage, the more it can leverage cost optimisation through both suppliers and contractors.”
This experience shows the interconnected nature of the global solar industry, and the potential of solar technologies. TNB Renewable’s recent investment in Vietnam reveals the increasing commitment to such technologies by operators around the world and shines a light on how rooftop solar PV could play such a vital part in our shared energy future.