REC to push into China under new ownership

Shareholders recently approved REC’s new ownership structure and now there is a new CEO. Why is it that the new ownership structure will allow REC to remain competitive and to grow in the solar marketplace?

REC is currently being integrated into Elkem from Norway. Elkem was acquired in 2011 by Chinese Company Bluestar which is 80% owned by ChemChina and 20% by Blackstone. I think this will be good for us.

We stay in the Norwegian heritage and personally I feel very comfortable with this. The other thing that we expect, and also what our new owners already expressed, is the intention to invest in REC in terms of innovation, which means increasing our R&D resources.

What does that mean more specifically?

This will mean that we can speed up certain things that we had been planning in the longer term, to realize them much early.

We can also further increase our production capacity, beyond what is already in the pipeline. And in order to stay a top 10 player in the worldwide PV rankings as a module supplier, one has to sell in China.

China has been almost impossible for us. A supplier needs to have a company in China, which is well networked and knows how to get things done [to succeed there].

Another way [of going about it] is to create a JV with a Chinese company but we learned from the automobile industry that there can be some difficulties in terms of transparency with your Chinese JV partner.

So with ChemChina and Bluestar, this will help to have a good entry into China for REC.

Will the REC brand be maintained?

That has been confirmed by Elkem: It wants to build on the REC brand. This is because also Elkem recognizes that it is a very strong brand. We have done a lot of work over the last years to make the brand even stronger.

And what are some of the technological programs that you intend to bring forward?

It is all about cell efficiency. So there is room to further increase efficiencies to result in higher module wattage and that is what customers are looking for – to get as much energy as possible from one module for the same investment.

What technologies are you looking at to achieve efficiency gains?

A good example is our recent 275 W multicrystalline 60-cell module. We have some backside passivation (PERC), four busbars, half-cut cells and a split junction box. So all of these factors contribute to a cutting-edge solution on a polysilicon module that can strongly compete with monocrystaline panels on performance and efficiency

What is the manufacturing in Singapore currently running at?

We will have a capacity of 1.3 GW in 2015 and up to end of Q3 2014, we had 100% factory utilization.

Is the increase in capacity all taking place at the existing Singapore factory?

The 1.3 GW capacity that has been announced will be in Singapore. It is a 36% increase on 2014 capacity. Beyond that we have to find out and investigate.

With your new owners, perhaps in China?

Maybe if we feel comfortable with the business case in China.

Now with a strong Chinese owner, you may feel even more comfortable?

Maybe we will. Let us say we will see how that affects our decision.