This article was originally published by Cleantech Solar and is republished with permission.
There is increasing interest within the Commercial & Industrial (C&I) Industry in using renewable energy sources to provide plants and buildings with electrical power and thus lower CO2 emissions. Raju Shukla, founder and chairman of Cleantech Solar, speaks with Global Initiatives about the company’s venture into providing solar energy facilities for the C&I segment where it has some of its landmark projects with leading MNC’s in Asia.
Global Initiatives: Dear Raju, what can you tell us about Cleantech Solar and how the whole adventure started?
Back in 2014, some of my former colleagues at Barclays and I were talking about what next challenge we could pick up. We came across the “solar PPA” (Power Purchase Agreement) business model which was only then starting. It is the business model where the solar company finances the solar PV system, installs it and eventually operates and maintains it. Effectively, an end user only pays for the electricity that the system had generated.
Starting up Cleantech Solar in that space felt like a natural fit where we could not only contribute our financial expertise but also leverage our extensive business networks across Asia. In addition, we were really driven by the sense of purpose of developing a start-up with great commercial potential with the final aim to reduce CO2 emissions for corporates.
Since then, we have grown exponentially in our key markets of India and Southeast Asia. The investment fund Climate Fund Managers joined us in 2018 and most recently we completed the investment by Shell, the global energy giant who now owns 49% of the company. Becoming the strategic partner with one of the world’s 10 largest companies is a huge deal and is helping us accelerate further.
Global Initiatives: What response did you get from the market? Some of the corporate players are rather hard-nosed and mainly focused on the bottom line so would sustainability be a strong selling point?
That’s the beauty of it. Solar today not only is one of the best solutions on hand to tackle greenhouse gas emissions but solar has also become significantly cheaper than grid electricity. We have signed contracts with about 160 customers in 8 different countries and I can assure you that each of those solar systems is saving money for our customers, day in, day out.
Moreover, there is also value in the wider picture which includes all of the branding benefits, employee engagement, competitive advantage.
Global Initiatives: Can you share with us some of your landmark projects in Asia?
As far as Cleantech Solar goes, we are effectively industry-agnostic and we currently have solar systems on pharmaceutical plants, aerospace plants, F&B factories, paint factories and many others.
In Singapore, one of our landmark projects is with the leading semiconductor manufacturer, GLOBALFOUNDRIES. A large-scale solar PV system of over 10,000 panels has been installed across the rooftops of GLOBALFOUNDRIES’s fabrication plants in Woodlands. In line with many other sectors, the semiconductor industry is increasingly focused on emission reductions and climate impact. Moreover, it is also an industry that demands the highest standards of engineering and design integrity and we are extremely pleased to have been selected to accompany GLOBALFOUNDRIES on this journey
In a very different industry, Cement is also a great sector for us where we have some of our landmark projects. In that industry, we are dealing with typically large companies that have a global footprint and very high energy consumption, but also increasingly have a strong focus on environmental performance. In addition to rooftop and ground-mount options, we have also been creative in some projects, for instance with Chip Mong Insee Cement Corporation (CMIC), a cement factory in Cambodia where we have used the retention pond to deploy an additional 3MWp of floating PV. From a safety perspective, that latest project in Cambodia for CMIC was extremely successful as it achieved 140,168 manhours with zero injuries, despite challenging conditions. This project adds to our exceptional track record in Cambodia where we have completed other high-quality projects such as the 2,600 kWp Coca-Cola Cambodia pant in Phnom Penh.
Among our growing portfolio of operating solar assets in Malaysia, we have worked with diversified group of customers from leading companies in the building & constructions, aerospace, F&B, Health care, engineering industries and more. We recently commissioned a state-of-the-art carport PV system for one of the world’s leading aerospace groups, the Safran Landing systems plant located in Sendayan Malaysia. The car park is only the first step of Safran’s vision and commitment to go “green” in Malaysia, the second step will be to fully cover the large building’s roof of the site with solar panels, allowing Safran to further replace the use of electricity from fossil fuels to renewable sources to power their internal plant operations.
In Thailand, we are working with retail giant Tesco Lotus to power 19 of their stores. Tesco Lotus has a commitment to achieve 100% renewable electricity use by 2030. The PV project with Tesco Lotus will help the company move towards this ambitious RE goal. This partnership represents another success for our team in Thailand to deliver repeatable and reliable solar solutions to leading corporations in the country.
Unilever’s operations across five continents are now powered by 100% renewable electricity and in India, we are very happy to be selected as a trusted partner to support this significant milestone.
Global Initiatives: So what’s next then for Cleantech Solar?
In a way, the sky is the limit. The demand for green energy from corporate customers is increasing faster than we can meet it. This is for good reasons as the pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has never been greater, whilst also coinciding with the economics for solar becoming more compelling by the day.
In addition, very large organisations such as Shell are now putting their weight behind the energy transition, so all stars are definitely aligned for more solar to be deployed!
Mr. Raju Shukla, Cleantech Solar’s Chairman and Founder Raju