APVIA 2012: Singapore leads path to grid parity


While the concept of grid parity for solar photovoltaics has long been a controversial topic, in terms of what it means for the industry, speakers at the first day of the APVIA conference have heard how it will result in photovoltaic uptake increasing in Singapore and the region. Prospects for Singapore were also spoken of positively, in terms of the country providing a banking base for the renewable energy sector in Southeast Asia.

Speaking at the opening of the APVIA conference, Singaporean Minister for State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan said the 5.5 MW of cumulative installed photovoltaic capacity has been added to the country’s energy mix. While this is only drop in the ocean, in terms of global capacity, it does represent a base from which the industry can build. Shyan predicted that more solar will be realized in Singapore.

Christophe Inglin is co-founder and Managing Director of Phoenix Solar Singapore and he sees opportunities for the industry as subsidies for fossil fuels decrease. He highlighted that while Singapore is a small state, high electricity prices are creating a significant push factor for photovoltaic installations in Singapore and the region.

Inglin pointed to electricity prices in Singapore of US$0.20/kWh, with rates rising in neighboring giants Malaysia and Indonesia. He also said that it is significant that the IEA sees an increased potential for renewables in the region, with the agency predicting that 30% of electricity will come from solar in the region by 2030.

Running counterpoint to electricity demand patterns in some of the developed world, electricity demand is expected to increase throughout much of Southeast Asia, if not in the developed economy of Singapore itself. Various speakers at the APVIA conference spoke of Southeast Asian states experiencing rapid economic growth, a growing middle class driving increasing electricity demand.

In this environment, Armin Aberle – CEO of the SERIS, the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore, described the arrival of retail grid parity as, "a huge step for solar in the country." Aberle noted that the next step to be realized by the photovoltaic industry in the country is cost parity, where photovoltaics can compete with cost structure for generation of the major utilities.

The APVIA 2012 trade show commenced in Singapore on Monday, with the event running concurrently with Singapore International Energy Week, at the same venue. Manufacturers such as Hanwha Solar One and aspirational tier two manufacturer Phono Solar are exhibiting prominently at the show. Suppliers such as Heraeus are also present.

However, despite the positive sentiment being expressed in the conference sessions, traffic was slow the trade show floor. The stresses of the period of consolidation gripping the industry was also evident, despite organizers hoping to attract 5,000 attendees at both the expo and conference.

The PV Asia Pacific Expo 2012 continues until Thursday.