Space tight SMEs tap solar power under new programme

Space tight SMEs tap solar power under new programme

SMALL and medium enterprises (SMEs) without their own rooftop space are now jumping on the solar power bandwagon, after local solar firm Sun Electric introduced a new business model separating the generation of solar power from its consumption.

This comes after Apple also signed a deal in November last year to receive power generated by solar energy systems on the rooftops of other buildings, to supplement those generated by its own.

Seven local firms – the Chope Group, Sky Tower on Sentosa, Pilatique, Seagift, Lotto Carpets Gallery, Absolute Living and Duta Holdings – have since a month ago started receiving electricity from solar panels installed on the rooftop of JTC in Tuas South. Under Sun Electric’s SolarSpace programme, businesses can use solar power without installing their own solar panels. The firm connects these buyers with owners of rooftop space.

The latter have the systems installed for free by Sun Electric and receive an agreed tariff based on the amount of electricity generated. There is no obligation to use the solar energy themselves. The SolarSpace programme will help speed up the adoption of solar power in Singapore, said Sun Electric’s chief executive Matthew Peloso.

“Essentially we’ve separated the generation from the consumption of solar energy,” he said.

The agreement between Sun Electric and the SMEs was the result of a grant call launched by JTC and Spring Singapore in 2014 to test-bed sustainable technologies in JTC’s facilities.

Said Energy Market Authority (EMA) chairman Loh Khum Yean at the launch of the SolarSpace programme on Monday: “We hope businesses will continue to leverage on such collaborative grant calls to help them accelerate the commercialisation of their products and services.”

The government is planning to fully liberalise the electricity retail market by the second half of 2018, which will allow 1.3 million small consumers, mainly households, to choose their own electricity retailers.

“EMA will support the use of solar energy in Singapore,” said Mr Loh. “We will continue to enhance the regulatory framework to encourage deployment, while actively looking for ways to manage the intermittent nature of solar and maintain overall grid system stability.”

For example, since December last year, the agency has allowed solar consumers the choice to use solar profiling instead of physical meters to measure the amount of solar energy generated, reducing costs by S$2,500 for each metering point a year, said Mr Loh.

The seven firms will in total take up 0.5 megawatt (MW) of power from JTC’s rooftop; Sun Electric is now in the process of building additional capacity of 9.5 MW on other rooftops. It foresees a portfolio of solar energy systems totalling 20 MW by the end of the year.

This, said Dr Peloso, is estimated to cost S$30 million. Sun Electric, which also plans to export its business model and software systems to markets such as the US, Philippines, Australia and Japan this year, is in the process of raising S$50 million.