SunEdison sets sights on Philippines with 300MW PV partnership

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US PV energy provider SunEdison has finalised a partnership with Aboitiz Renewables that could see the pair build up to 300MW of PV in the Philippines.

The move continues SunEdison’s recent aggressive drive to build PV power plants in overseas markets, with plans to develop multiple gigawatts of projects in China and Rajasthan among recent announcements.

Under the joint framework between SunEdison and Aboitiz, a subsidiary of local utility, Aboitiz Power Corporation, the pair said they would explore, develop, construct and operate up to 300MW of PV in the Philippines over the next three years.

The companies said they would begin the first in a “series” of utility-scale PV plants in the Philippines next year.

“It's an ideal partnership,” said Ahmad Chatila, chief executive of SunEdison. “Aboitiz Power has extensive utility-scale experience in the Philippine power market, and SunEdison has leading world-class solar technology and deployment capabilities. Together we are ideally positioned to swiftly bring cost-effective solar energy to the people of the Philippines.”

Erramon I. Aboitiz, chief executive of Aboitiz Power Corp, added: “We are constantly exploring new energy sources, and this exclusive agreement with SunEdison is an important milestone and a welcome addition to our current portfolio of renewable energy. Our deep knowledge of local markets, together with SunEdison's proven track record and cutting edge technology, will enable us to rapidly achieve our goal.”

Solar has begun to make some headway in the Philippines lately, with the country’s first utility-scale plant coming online earlier this year. The island nation also has a project pipeline now exceeding 1GW, though there have been some question marks over the achievability of this because of various regulatory hurdles, not least the complexity of its feed-in tariff.

However, it would appear attention is now turning to unsubsidised solar in the Philippines, where electricity costs are high. In August Nv vogt, a Singapore-based JV announced plans for a 6MW merchant PV plant to offset diesel generation in the South Cotabato area of the Phillppines.

Meanwhile, SunEdison has been pioneering the merchant PV power model in Chile, where it is building the unsubsidised 50MW San Andres project.

Josefin Berg, analyst at market research firm IHS, said one option for the SunEdison-Aboitiz partnership would be to pursue the merchant route, but said the FiT could be another in the light of an increase to the FiT rate planned by the government next year.

“We will have to wait and see if SunEdison choose to go merchant or not; it could be, but it will be handled by Aboitiz,” Berg said. “The [Philippines] Department of Energy is looking to raise the feed-in tariff, so it remains a possibility the project will use the FiT; the DoE could raise the tariff if there are enough serious projects. Some projects already use direct PPAs and are not using the FiT, but I doubt they will rely on the FiT.”

Berg said the partnership’s plans marked a “step up” for solar in the Philippines.

“The Philippines has a really big pipeline, there have been lots of projects announced, but 300MW is a step up. To see a big power company like this embrace solar is very positive for the industry,” Berg said. “The market is very interesting in the Philippines right now, projects have been on hold for the past year with a lot of waiting, but now small and big energy companies are taking on solar projects, next year will be very exciting.”

Additional reporting by Lucy Woods.

The Philippines will be just one of Southeast Asia’s emerging PV hotspots under the spotlight at Solar Energy Southeast Asia on 25-26 November. The event will be hosted by PV Tech’s publisher Solar Media at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand. Further details are available at http://seasia.solarenergyevents.com/

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