Gar­ment fac­tory in­stalls rooftop so­lar PV to fend off ris­ing elec­tric­ity cost

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Business - SHIU WANG CHAU busi­ness@mm­ BUSI­NESS 12 BUSI­NESS 13

A GAR­MENT busi­ness in Myan­mar in­stalled a so­lar pho­to­voltaic sys­tem in a bid to re­duce con­sump­tion of grid-based elec­tric­ity, as elec­tric­ity prices are ex­pected to in­crease fur­ther in the com­ing years.

On Mon­day, July 03, Laos-head­quar­tered Sun­labob an­nounced the com­ple­tion and com­mis­sion of a 92.6-kilo­watt peak (kwp) rooftop so­lar pho­to­voltaic (PV) in­stal­la­tion at Aus­trian-owned gar­ment fac­tory Anita Asia, the sec­ond so­lar PV sys­tem ever built in Myan­mar. The first sys­tem was in­stalled in Junc­tion City, Yangon, in late 2016.

In an in­ter­view in July 20, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Sun­labob told The Myan­mar Times that they aim to ex­pand the so­lar power in­dus­try and pro­vide an al­ter­na­tive, cost-sav­ing power source as the elec­tri­cal price in Myan­mar seems to go nowhere but up.

The sys­tem is de­signed to op­er­ate for more than 25 years and is ex­pected to cover up to 25pc of Anita Asia’s power de­mands by op­er­at­ing on a self-con­sump­tion ba­sis, pro­vid­ing on­go­ing cost-sav­ings to Anita Asia.

“Nearly 25pc of Anita’s en­ergy needs in Yangon are now cov­ered by so­lar-based elec­tric­ity, which en­ables the com­pany to save money, re­duce its en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print and demon­strate its com­mit­ment to sus­tain­able man­u­fac­tur­ing prac­tices,” Stephan Seidel, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Anita Asia, said.

Founded in 2000, Sun­labob is a Laos-based re­new­able en­ergy de­vel­op­ment busi­ness which aims to de­cen­tralise re­new­able en­ergy and clean wa­ter so­lu­tions through­out the de­vel­op­ing world. The com­pany has ex­tended to coun­tries in Africa, Asia and the Pa­cific Is­lands.

Evan Scan­dling, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the firm, told The Myan­mar Times that it fo­cuses on com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial, grid-con­nected rooftop so­lar en­ergy op­er­at­ing sys­tems in ur­ban ar­eas, as well as off-grid, com­mer­cial and vil­lage-level so­lar en­ergy op­er­at­ing sys­tems in ru­ral ar­eas. The team help set up power sys­tems which are de­signed to op­er­ate in harsh phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ments. Hav­ing started their op­er­a­tions in 2014, the com­pany has since built the first two so­lar PV sys­tems in Myan­mar, but they have also in­stalled so­lar-pow­ered mini-grids in 11 vil­lages through­out Shan and Chin states with the sup­port from the Ja­panese In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Sys­tem (JICS). Mr Scan­dling said that the likes of Asian De­vel­op­ment Bank (ADB) and World Bank Group have cul­ti­vated a grow­ing aware­ness of the new con­cept of so­lar power tech­nol­ogy in the Myan­mar mar­ket.

“Three years ago, there were only a hand­ful of mini-grids. But in three years’ time, with the sup­port from the ADB, GIZ, DRD and the World Bank, lots of progress have been made, in terms of show­ing a va­ri­ety of stake­hold­ers that so­lar en­ergy is avail­able.

“Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials also be­gin to un­der­stand so­lar en­ergy,” Evan Scan­dling told The Myan­mar Times.

“Projects have started to hap­pen; peo­ple can see that so­lar en­ergy is a vi­able op­tion.

“There was a lot of doubt on so­lar en­ergy ini­tially be­cause it’s a new tech­nol­ogy. Now they have the data and the proof that it is a vi­able op­tion. Aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing have shifted,” he added.

With all the op­ti­mism in its fu­ture, so­lar power, how­ever, is still in its aware­ness-build­ing stage in the coun­try. A lot of work re­mains to be done to bring Myan­mar’s so­lar power in­dus­try up to pace with the rest of the world.

The so­lar power sec­tor faces chal­lenges that most busi­nesses face here: com­plex and un­clear reg­u­la­tions.

Clar­ity and trans­parency in poli­cies and reg­u­la­tions will pro­vide in­dus­tries with a clear di­rec­tion in Myan­mar’s mar­ket de­vel­op­ment, cre­at­ing a bet­ter busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment which all busi­nesses, in­clud­ing the so­lar power in­dus­try, can ben­e­fit from, ac­cord­ing to Mr Scan­dling.

How­ever, there are ob­serv­able ef­forts from Nay Pyi Taw in sup­port­ing the so­lar power in­dus­try.

“To the gov­ern­ment’s credit,” Mr Scan­dling said, “there are ex­emp­tions on im­port du­ties on so­lar pan­els, con­vert­ers and charge con­trollers – all three are im­por­tant com­po­nents in build­ing a so­lar PV sys­tem. This shows recog­ni­tion from the gov­ern­ment.”

He sug­gested that the gov­ern­ment should pub­lish an elec­tric rate sched­ule which out­lines the cost of elec­tric­ity within a range of three to five years. This will al­low the so­lar power in­dus­try to project its com­pet­i­tive­ness in com­par­i­son to grid elec­tric­ity.

In ad­di­tion, he pre­dicted that elec­tric­ity prices from the main grid in Myan­mar will only in­crease, hence so­lar power sys­tems will be a cost­sav­ing as­set to the Myan­mar peo­ple.

The rise of so­lar en­ergy should be un­der­stood in the con­text of se­vere short­age of grid-based elec­tric­ity sup­ply for Myan­mar’s ris­ing en­ergy de­mand.

This en­ergy short­age and lack of ac­cess have af­fected big busi­nesses, multi­na­tion­als, SMES and res­i­dents in both ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas.

Last month, Kat­suji Nak­a­gawa, chair of Ja­pan Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try in Myan­mar, told The Myan­mar Times that the lack of re­li­able power sup­ply is the sin­gle big­gest ob­sta­cle in do­ing busi­ness in the coun­try.

With­out sta­ble and suf­fi­cient en­ergy sup­ply, man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies can­not op­er­ate with their op­ti­mal ca­pac­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search data from the IFC, more than 65 per­cent of Myan­mar’s pop­u­la­tion, a to­tal of seven mil­lion house­holds, has no ac­cess to grid-based elec­tric­ity ser­vices. In ru­ral ar­eas, more than two thirds of house­holds rely on can­dles, kerosene, low-qual­ity bat­ter­ies and diesel gen­er­a­tors to meet their en­ergy needs.

With the as­sis­tance of the World Bank Group and other donors, Myan­mar’s gov­ern­ment has adopted the Na­tional Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion Plan, which aims to achieve univer­sal ac­cess to sus­tain­able elec­tric­ity ser­vices by 2030 through a com­bi­na­tion of grid ex­ten­sion and off-grid pro­grams.

So­lar en­ergy has been spear­headed by in­ter­na­tional in­vestors, with some aim­ing to de­cen­tralise the ac­cess to so­lar en­ergy.

On July 6, Green­light Planet launched its re­tail store un­der the brand Sun King in Bago Re­gion. The store of­fers both Easy­buy and up­front pay­ment op­tions across a range of so­lar lamps and home sys­tems.

For Sun­labob, Mr Scan­dling said his ob­jec­tive is to be­come the first in­ter­na­tional so­lar com­pany with a lo­cal team on the ground in Myan­mar to in­stall the prod­ucts and pro­vide main­te­nance ser­vices, lead­ing the de­vel­op­ment of com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial so­lar power tech­nol­ogy.

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