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EMERGING ENTERPRISE

Blue skies ahead for green energy company EDPR Sunseap

Elysia Tan
Published Wed, Oct 5, 2022 · 02:30 PM

AS THE global race towards renewable energy heats up, the road ahead looks bright for EDPR Sunseap. Since its Emerging Enterprise Awards win in 2014, the renewable energy player has expanded its offerings and geographical footprint, with fresh funding and a wave of new hires.

Eight years ago, the company – then known as Sunseap Leasing – was an early player in Singapore’s fledgling solar energy scene. EDPR Sunseap installs its solar panels on the rooftops of buildings to generate energy, charging building owners for electricity consumed, with any energy unused being exported into the power grid.

“We were looking at delivering megawatts of capacity in Singapore, back then. I remember when we first started (in 2011), Singapore was barely a market,” said Frank Phuan, business chief executive officer at the now-regional business.

Awareness of climate change and the need for decarbonisation has grown in the years since. At the same time, competition is rife, with new startups and established utility companies “going green” and fighting for a slice of the renewable energy pie, he said.

But EDPR Sunseap has a first mover advantage, he added: “When we secure a rooftop, we’re going to be there for the next 20, 30 years.”

Of some 10,000 Housing and Development Board buildings today, about half are outfitted with solar panels, and EDPR Sunseap is involved with more than 3,000 of these. In 2022, it is “delivering around 100 megawatts of solar (energy)” locally, said Phuan.

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Including both projects that are operating and those still under construction, the company has a solar capacity of 0.7 gigawatts in Asia across more than 2,100 projects. Half of this capacity is in Singapore.

In addition to traditional panel installations on horizontal surfaces on land, water surfaces and rooftops, EDPR Sunseap is exploring installations on vertical surfaces such as building facades, and creating solar fences and solar parameters with panels that can harness solar energy on both sides.

While more than half of its resources – including funding and manpower – are still dedicated to developing, building, operating and owning solar panels in Singapore, the company has expanded its offerings over the years.

As power purchase agreements (PPAs) usually span decades, customers who sign them tend to be “very green-minded” and willing to commit to long-term solutions – making them “the perfect client”, said Phuan. “So what other green services can be delivered to the same client without going out to market ourselves?”

Diversifying from PPAs, EDPR Sunseap now counts energy retail, smart metering and electric vehicle charging among the suite of products and services that it provides to businesses and individual consumers.

EDPR Sunseap has also expanded beyond Singapore. With the republic as a “living lab” in which to test its energy solutions, it now operates projects in 10 markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

Cross-border projects also have a lot of potential for “redistribution of resources”, said Phuan. For example, excess hydropower capacities in Laos, East Malaysia, and Sumatra in Indonesia could be used to create clean hydrogen, to be shipped to Singapore. For its part, Singapore has many developers with financial resources who are interested to invest in overseas projects.

“There is so much growth in this region that we need people to deploy,” added Phuan. Having nearly doubled its headcount with 300 new hires over the past year, the company will be moving to a larger office soon.

When foreign workers were unable to leave their dormitories during the pandemic, volunteers from among the office staff were mobilised to work on project installations, leading to a “eureka moment”, Phuan said.

The company put together a programme to hire and teach employees to design and install solar projects. These employees can then pass down this training to other new hires and people on the ground at project sites.

Earlier this year, the company’s name gained the “EDPR” prefix after EDP Renewables (EDPR) – the world’s fourth-largest renewable energy producer – bought a 91 per cent stake in the company for S$1.1 billion.

With the Madrid-headquartered company’s support, EDPR Sunseap intends to invest heavily in existing key markets while establishing itself in new markets such as Australia. “Huge scale”, “billion-dollar” cross-border projects will also “be a new milestone” going forward, said Phuan.

EDPR Sunseap had previously been mulling an initial public offering, but that plan was halted in its tracks when one of its large shareholders decided to exit. Rather than delaying its listing, the company decided to proceed with a sale.

“Listing, to us, is a means to an end,” said Phuan. Listing would have allowed the company to tap on capital markets to fuel global growth and provided an exit strategy for shareholders – but working with EDPR, a global listed company, achieves those same goals, he added. “We share very similar values, share very similar DNA.”

This article is part of a series on former winners of the Emerging Enterprise Awards. This year’s EE winners will be announced on Nov 22.

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