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Official Government Backing Sees Indonesian Solar Sector Set to Soar

With its government committed to doubling Indonesia's use of renewable energy over the next 10 years, the country is experiencing a gold rush as overseas solar panel and LED companies hurry to carve out their own particular niche.

Photo: Bright prospects: Solar power set to be a leading light in the Indonesian energy market. (Shutterstock.com)
Bright prospects: Solar power set to be a leading light in the Indonesian energy market.
Photo: Bright prospects: Solar power set to be a leading light in the Indonesian energy market. (Shutterstock.com)
Bright prospects: Solar power set to be a leading light in the Indonesian energy market.

Indonesia's plans to double its use of renewable energy over the next 10 years have been widely welcomed by solar firms and green technology companies across the world. Against such a backdrop then, it was no surprise that this year's Indonesia International Green Technology and Eco-Friendly Products Exhibition (INAGREENTECH) proved to be such an upbeat event.

Among the first-time exhibitors drawn by Indonesia's apparent eco-friendly largesse was DAH Solar, a manufacturer of solar cells/panels and an installer of complete solar systems headquartered in China's eastern Anhui province. Established in 2013, the company's existing client base includes a number of factories, schools and supermarkets, with the majority of them operating on the mainland.

Explaining its move into Indonesia, Tanya Jiang, the company's Senior Sales Director, said: "Thanks to the government's supportive policies, the Indonesian market for solar panels is growing fast. In light of that, we want to partner with existing domestic manufacturers to help meet this rising demand."

News of Indonesia's commitment had even reached as far away as Germany, with Bavaria-based Schletter Solar Technology making the 22,000km round-trip to Jakarta to stake its own claim to at least part of the country's renewable-energy budget. At present, Schletter provides pitched roof and flat roof solar systems, vertical wall/facade solar panels and open area systems. It has also been a pioneer in the development of car-port systems, which are said to turn parking lots into energy-generating hotspots.

Commenting on the prospects for the sector within both Indonesia and the wider Asian market, Andreas Sommer, the company's Head of Sales and Application Technology for Southeast Asia, said: "In Asia, it is relatively easy to harvest sunlight and turn it into power. Despite this, government support still has a very important role to play in the development of the solar sector."

While the Indonesian government is clearly supportive of the green technology and renewable energy sectors, it is equally keen to protect the interests of local players, at least according to Adam Yao, Marketing and Communications Manager for Trina Solar, a Jiangsu-based solar-panel manufacturer. Commenting on the perceived inequality in the market, he said: "We hope that the government here will relax some of the restrictions on foreign manufacturers. Indonesia's market for solar systems is still in its infancy and we really want to contribute to its growth."

Trina Solar was founded in 1997, emerging as one of the pioneers of China's solar sector. From being one of the mainland's first businesses to focus on photovoltaic (PV) technology, it grew into a world leader in the field, eventually listing on the New York Stock Exchange in 2006.

In addition the support for green technology on the part of the country's government, Indonesia's huge and disparate population has also made it an attractive proposition for overseas solar companies. Indeed, it was this aspect of the local market that first appealed to Fosera, a German solar-systems specialist.

Explaining why Indonesia was such a good fit for his business, Leonides Lechoncito, Fosera's Sales Manager for the Asia-Pacific region, said: "Our system gives those without access to electricity, including those who live on remote islands, the chance to finally get connected at home. Our USP is providing lighting to communities without access to electricity, and Indonesia has a very real need for this kind of system."

Included in Fosera's current range is a solar home kit capable of providing power for seven straight nights without the need for recharging. The kit comes with a battery that has a 10-year warranty and a solar panel guaranteed to last at least 25 years. The system has also, apparently, been endorsed by the World Bank.

Photo: Indonesia has woken up to the benefits of LED lighting.
Indonesia has woken up to the benefits of LED lighting.
Photo: Indonesia has woken up to the benefits of LED lighting.
Indonesia has woken up to the benefits of LED lighting.
Photo: Pollution-free pellets for the Mini Moto stove.
Pollution-free pellets for the Mini Moto stove.
Photo: Pollution-free pellets for the Mini Moto stove.
Pollution-free pellets for the Mini Moto stove.

While the show was largely dominated by overseas companies, a few local renewable energy firms also made their presence felt, including Rekasurya, an Indonesian provider of comprehensive solar-power systems. Despite the stiff international competition, Muhammad Salman Algifari, a Sales and Marketing Executive with the company, remained confident that Rekasurya would continue to be a major player in the market.

Maintaining his company had already secured a particular niche, he said: "While most of the companies exhibiting here specialise in solar panels, solar cells or solar-power accessories, we offer complete systems. This makes us almost unique, while our pricing is also hugely competitive."

At its production facility in Bandung, the capital of Indonesia's West Java province, the company manufactures its proprietary range of solar modules, inverters, solar-charge controllers, batteries and all of the other components required for the installation of a bespoke sustainable power system. At present, the company's clients include government facilities, local businesses and a growing number of residential customers.

Apart from the event's huge solar-power contingent, there was also a substantial number of energy-saving LED lighting companies, as well as businesses offering a range of other environmentally friendly products. Chief among the former was ESD Lighting, a Guangdong-based manufacturer of commercial and industrial LED lighting products.

Explaining the company's presence at the Jakarta event, Manager Sam Zhu said: "There is a huge market in Indonesia for our products, especially as the government now specifies the use of energy-saving products for many of its projects. As a result, we are now hoping to connect with someone who has both faith in our products and sound government contacts."

ESD's line of LED products includes downlights, panel lights, tubes, bulbs, LED strips, and floodlights. According to Zhu, the company's LED range typically offers energy savings of up to 80% compared with conventional systems.

Similarly enthused as to the benefits of LED was Tjiknang Usman, Sales Manager of The Lighting Solutions, an East Java-based manufacturer of a wide range of lighting products. Confident that both business and residential clients have woken up to the advantages of the technology, he said: "Indonesians are now aware of the cost savings to be had from using LED lights.

"The technology is also environmentally friendly as no toxic materials are used, while less heat is emitted and the brightness is the same as that generated by incandescent bulbs. LED lights also consume far less energy than fluorescent tubes, are easier to maintain and last longer."

Meanwhile, taking more of a low-tech approach to combatting household pollution was The Natural Energy, the official Indonesian distributor of Mini Moto, a Dutch brand of cooking stoves fired by environmentally friendly wood pellets.

Maintaining that the stove/pellet combination could provide a partial solution to Indonesia's pollution problems, Steven Eyskens, the company's Chief Executive, said: "Millions of households across Indonesia are still using open fires for cooking. Although it is impractical for the government to immediately ban the practice, we are here to prove that there are other options.

"The Mini Moto is an affordable cooking stove specifically designed to burn cheap, locally produced biomass fuel – such as wood pellets – in a very clean and efficient way. The stove also complies with the air-quality guidelines laid down by the World Health Organization. So, if the government wants to cut pollution and help protect the environment, it should encourage the uses of these stoves and these pellets."

Photo: Fosera: Looking to illuminate Indonesia’s darkest corners.
Fosera: Looking to illuminate Indonesia's darkest corners.
Photo: Fosera: Looking to illuminate Indonesia’s darkest corners.
Fosera: Looking to illuminate Indonesia's darkest corners.

The Indonesia International Green Technology and Eco-Friendly Products Exhibition (INAGREENTECH) 2017 took place at the Jakarta International Expo from 17-19 May.

Geoff de Freitas, Special Correspondent, Jakarta

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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