Singapore’s Leading Light
Empowering Southeast Asia with a portfolio of 1.7 GW of solar projects, Sunseap Group continues to spearhead change with its innovative, agile solutions
Writer: Jonathan Dyble | Project Manager: Ryan Gray
There are few regions globally that can lay claim to more exciting economic prospects than Southeast Asia.
While China, Japan and many of the continent’s other traditional powerhouses continue to make headway, the whirlwind taking many of its tiger cub economies by storm is equally helping to shape Asia’s next growth frontier.
Take the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for example. An intergovernmental organisation comprising 10 countries, combined they stand as the fifth largest economy in the world with a GDP of $2.76 trillion and population of 630 million (according to 2017’s figures).
Yet this is just the advent of prosperity for the region. Owed to vast swathes of industrial, entrepreneurial, financial and technological opportunities, the territory’s annual economic growth rates are forecast to exceed five percent for the next half decade.
Against this backdrop, numerous enterprises are unsurprisingly thriving.
“The renewables industry, particularly solar energy, is epitomising the high growth in Southeast Asia,” affirms Keith Lim, Chief Financial Officer of Sunseap Group – a Singaporean-based company that is making the most of the monumental opportunities available.
“Many developing countries here require increasing amounts of energy to fuel their rapid economic expansion, and solar energy presents itself as an attractive alternative to conventional energy, especially with the declining cost of generation.”
Identifying these inevitable demands, Sunseap can be best described as a forward-thinking first mover in the solar market, as well as an industry innovator. Born out of a series of informal meetings turned serious discussions between long time friends and eventual Co-Founders Lawrence Wu and Frank Phuan, the pair set out to plug the gap.
“With Frank, I formed a synergistic partnership,” Wu explains.
“Frank was the technical guy, having been closely involved in his family’s solar business, while I brought a financial background in investment banking to the table, having raised capital and requisite funding for international banks such as DBS Bank, Macquarie and BNP Paribas.
“We had a vision, to provide affordable solar energy solutions to corporates and the general public as a service, and with our combined individual skillsets, we set up the first entity of Sunseap Group, Sunseap Leasing in 2011.”
Working with Microsoft and Apple
Fast forward to today and Sunseap Group now stands as the leading clean energy solutions provider in Singapore, comprising six different business entities.
Offering everything from zero-cost solar solutions (solar power purchasing agreements) and offsite renewable energy supply to green roof solutions, the firm’s extensive array of services has facilitated its establishment as an integrated, holistic renewable energy solutions provider.
“I think this is what sets us apart,” Wu affirms.
“For businesses, we provide a full suite of energy related services that can help buildings reduce energy consumption, improve the energy efficiency of buildings and provide a source of renewable energy for the betterment of the environment. For consumers, we provide an option to choose a sustainable source of energy without having to invest or manage a renewable energy generation asset.”
The numbers back up this competitive advantage. In just eight years, the enterprise has already amassed a portfolio of more than 1.7 GW in solar projects, spanning Singapore, Australia, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Thailand, Japan, Cambodia, Malaysia and India.
This includes landmark deals with global tech giants Apple and Microsoft.
Lim explains: “With Apple, we engineered Southeast Asia’s first 100 percent renewable energy deal, which allowed us to kickstart and develop Sunseap Energy – the entity in Sunseap responsible for developing offsite renewable energy solutions.
“Equally, we clinched Microsoft’s first renewable energy deal in Asia and the single largest solar energy portfolio in Singapore via renewable energy attributes.”
Just two of an array of milestone deals for the firm, it also won the Singaporean Housing Development Board’s first tender under the SolarNova programme in 2015, a contract which subsequently led Sunseap to constructing the largest portfolio of projects at that time, spanning 800 HDB skyrise blocks with a total capacity of 76 MW.
Further, the company more recently delivered a 168 MW solar farm in Vietnam, one of the largest in the country, and Cambodia’s first solar farm in the southern city of Bavet.
“It is an exciting time for clean energy providers like us to be in Asia. Many countries are transitioning to greener sources of energy,” Wu adds.
Elevation through innovation
Simply looking at Sunseap Group’s upcoming pipeline makes it hard to argue with the Co-Founder.
He continues: “We announced a new partnership with Pacific Green Energy in June this year to jointly develop 100 MW of distributed solar projects in Taiwan over the next three years.
“And we also teamed up Guohe Capital, one of China’s first private equity firms, and Shanghai renewable energy company Starkle Energy to establish a clean energy investment fund. The fund aims to invest and manage more than 200 MW of solar projects in China over the next two years.”
New projects are not the only source of excitement for the organisation right now, however. Equally, the business continues to invest heavily into research and development.
“It’s a big part of what we do here at Sunseap,” Lim reveals. “We are constantly looking at new ways to innovate and improve our current work processes.”
Most recently, this approach coaxed a collaboration with Envision, the pair teaming up to develop an internet of things platform, geared towards optimising solar PV projects by incorporating solar applications such as demand side energy management technologies.
“We also partnered with leading third-party renewables asset management service provider UPER Energy to develop proprietary solar project management tools,” Lim adds. “Meanwhile, internally, we are in the midst of revamping our enterprise resource planning software to streamline our work processes and integrate various platforms across the group.”
Spearheading sustainable change
Project improvement and efficiency optimisation investments aside, the firm equally puts time and effort into ensuring that it upholds a world-class workplace environment.
Be it the firm’s open-plan office environment or an emphasis on staff empowerment, the Sunseap leadership team readily encourage inter-department participation and sharing across the organisation.
“We’ve created a culture of open communication,” Wu states. “Our staff feel comfortable giving feedback and ideas to higher management and are able to collaborate with different departments on various projects.
“We also prioritise education given that quite a number of employees who join us did not have any previous background in solar. We provide on-the-job training and ensure our staff have the chance to develop their specialised skillsets regularly.”
This responsible outlook similarly translates into the organisation’s corporate social investment initiatives, an area that Wu himself feels particularly strongly about.
“CSR encompasses our entire operation,” he states. “Sunseap is committed to developing affordable and reliable solar energy solutions that benefit communities while saving the environment.
“Most recently we have supported a group of students attending the National University of Singapore by providing solar panels for Suoi Quyen Village in Vietnam to power their day-to-day activities. In a similar capacity, we have also supported Green School Bali in Indonesia to get it off the grid by donating solar panels to generate solar energy on site.”
Charitable efforts form another sizable part of the business’s philanthropic efforts. On this front, Wu highlights a VND3 billion ($130,000) donation made by Sunseap for the construction of a 168 MW solar farm in Ninh Thuan, Vietnam which helped to improve connectivity for local farmers in the district.
Looking beyond these individual elements, the firm has positioned itself as a flagship for change, spreading awareness of environmental sustainability, upholding communities and encouraging consumers to reduce their carbon footprint.
In doing so, the organisation is showcasing the double-edged potential of solar in both meeting rapidly rising energy demands and addressing global climate goals. For this reason, it remains optimistic for the future.
Lim concludes: “As opposed to traditional grid infrastructure which takes years to establish, solar systems can be deployed in a matter of weeks and months. There’s even room for greater deployment of solar systems on unused surfaces and areas – on bodies of water, seas and reservoirs.
“Further, for countries like Singapore that are faced with land scarcity, rooftop areas can be utilised to build solar systems which can contribute cleaner sources of electricity to national grids. In essence, this provides an option for commercials and the general public alike to utilise renewable energy without having to own or manage a renewable energy generation asset.”