Cleantech sector gets $250m injection

The local cleantech sector received a significant boost yesterday when industry leader Renewable Energy Corporation (REC) announced a $250 million investment.

REC, the biggest cleantech player here, will use the bulk of the funding to boost the production of new high-performance solar panels at its Tuas plant. The rest will be funnelled into research and development (R&D) initiatives.

The huge investment is a "strong vote of confidence in the continued attractiveness of Singapore as a manufacturing centre for clean energy systems", said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, who attended a ceremony to mark the announcement.

The cleantech sector - which encompasses clean energy, the environment and water - has grown in recent years. The number of solar companies rose from just a handful in 2008 to about 50 local and international firms today.

REC entered Singapore in a big way in 2008 by choosing to site its integrated solar production facility here from a list of around 200 possible locations.

The $2.53 billion it has since spent here is the largest cleantech investment ever done here.

REC's global headquarters, R&D and key manufacturing plant are all in Singapore, where it employs over 2,000 staff.

About $200 million of the announced $250 million investment will be pumped into its Tuas plant over the next three years to enable higher production of TwinPeak, a 120-cell, high-power, multi-crystalline module that was launched last year. It transforms more sunlight into electricity compared with standard modules.

REC aims to increase the single TwinPeak production line to five lines by next year, and 11 by 2019.

The other $50 million investment is part of a research collaboration with the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore.

They are aiming to develop a high-efficiency module with 350W power, a product that will generate 1.35 times more energy than standard 60-cell modules but is produced at a comparable cost.

Overall, Singapore takes an integrated approach in promoting the growth of the solar energy sector, including providing support for R&D, project development and financing activities, as well as government projects to lead demand, said Mr Goh Chee Kiong, the executive director of cleantech at the Economic Development Board.

It is trying to attract renewable energy desks of financial institutions to use Singapore as a springboard to serve Asia.

"Novel financial instruments such as project bonds and green business trusts as well as new business models are being developed and implemented from Singapore," said Mr Goh.

Singapore plans to raise its adoption of solar power to 350 megawatt-peak by 2020, which will be about 5 per cent of the projected peak electricity demand then.

This article was first published on March 31, 2016.
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