UK power firm Shire Oak International sees Vietnam as a key market, given the huge demand and the government’s robust support for renewable energy.
The renewable energy developer’s entry to Vietnam was prompted by several favorable conditions in the country to boost production of solar power, the company’s founder Mark Shorrock told VnExpress. Shire Oak International currently has a pipeline of 720 projects across Vietnam with a total estimated system value of over $1.9 billion.
Mark Shorrock, CEO of Shire Oak International.
What were the decisive factors for your entry into Vietnam?
Vietnam is one of the ripest markets for solar energy. The need for power in Vietnam, a developing economy that has posted an incredible 7 percent GDP growth per year since 2018, is huge, with electricity use expanding by 6,000 MWp per year.
At the same time, Vietnam has some of the most sunlight hours in Asia, particularly in the south where most of the country’s manufacturers are. And so, rooftop energy is perfect here. By putting solar panel systems onto the roofs of their factories, manufacturers are saving money on energy costs, while expanding their production and also helping to improve the environment, reduce air pollution and contribute to a healthier society. It is really a win-win situation for everyone.
On top of this, the government has developed the solar market with clear guidance. We really value working in a country that offers the transparency that the legal documents from the government here do, which enables long-term forward planning.
What is Shire Oak International’s background in renewable energy?
We have seeded the UK’s biggest solar farm as West Raynham, which has a capacity of 49.99 MW. We are also behind the world’s first-ever tidal lagoon, planned for Swansea Bay in Wales. Some of our proudest achievements have been made outside of the UK, though, not least in developing countries where renewable energy is really the key to unlocking long-term sustainable economic growth.
Countries like Iraq and Vietnam deserve a new dawn of prosperity and security, and renewable energy can deliver that by allowing industries to grow without polluting the environment and damaging people’s health like burning coal does.
With Shire Oak International, I wanted to take what we had learned to developing countries, where a lack of renewable energy developers and the high cost of capital for renewable energy projects is a barrier to growth. So far, we have established operations in Zimbabwe, Uganda, Colombia, Iraq, and of course, Vietnam.
How do rooftop solar systems work?
In short, the solar panels on the roofs of the factories harness the power of the sun, which is conveniently shining when the factories are operational and use this to power the machinery. The energy is processed through an on-grid inverter which is linked-up to mobile devices that can monitor electricity production constantly.
Any energy that isn’t used can also be sold to the general energy grid through a directional meter. This allows manufacturers to take advantage of Vietnam’s very generous new feed-in tariffs.
Shire Oak International experts at a rooftop solar system on Boho Décor’s factory in Long An Province, southern Vietnam.
What are your future plans for Vietnam in particular and Southeast Asia in general?
We have big plans for expansion in Southeast Asia, where we think this technology is so well suited. It’s a really exciting prospect: to help developing Asian countries to reach their economic potential without having to pollute their environments and harm their people like we in the West did during our coal-based industrial revolution. Asia is really the growth story of the next century and Asian leaders have the opportunity to set the standard for sustainable, clean development.
We plan to expand into other Asian markets from our headquarters here in Ho Chi Minh City, and for our Vietnamese offices to be our base for the whole of our Southeast Asia operations. There is such great talent here in Vietnam and such a lovely can-do attitude. Combined with strong support from the government, this makes Vietnam the perfect place from which to expand. Currently, we are establishing activities in Indonesia and Myanmar, but the sky is the limit.