Banpu continues green expansion with Sunseap stakes
Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
Thailand’s biggest coal-mining company, Banpu, has paid US$55.7 million for a 25.7% stake in Singapore’s biggest solar energy provider, Sunseap Group. The investment will be used to promote clean energy expansion programmes across the region, the two companies said.

“Sunseap sees significant synergies in the latest partnership as it will allow us to tap Banpu’s deeper resources and wider networks in the region and they [will] leverage our expertise and experience in delivering innovative clean energy solutions in a reliable and cost-effective manner,” the Singaporean group said.

Banpu, a conglomerate which already has conventional and renewables assets across the Asia-Pacific region, declared in August it wanted to increase its renewable power portfolio to 20% of its total generating capacity by 2025, from just 3% now. Its current portfolio of 2,057 MW comes mostly from coal power plants in Laos and China, with its renewable input from solar farms in Japan.

Subsidiary Banpu Power announced earlier this year a target of raising its generating capacity to 4,300 MW by 2025, and seeks to establish more solar power and wind projects in Vietnam.

The Bangkok-based company bought the Sunseap stake via its “green” subsidiary Banpu Infinergy. However, the parent firm told the Bangkok Post that coal would remain a key commodity and it will maintain annual coal production at 45 million tonnes while seeking to raise reserves across its Indonesia, Australia and China mines by 25%.

Sunseap specialises in rooftop solar systems linked into the grid, operating contracts with about 160 MW installed capacity, including what it claims is the world’s biggest solar-powered port, at Jurong in Singapore.
Royal Dutch Shell recently invested an unspecified amount in Sunseap, although Banpu was described by Singapore’s Business Times as the firm’s first “strategic investor.”

Sunseap has a pipeline of solar projects in Cambodia, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Australia, the Times said.

Banpu CEO Somruedee Chaimongkol said in a statement the investment in Sunseap was part of a programme of “responding to business needs and encouraging the switch to clean energy in Thailand”. Yet, as REM reported in August, it is unclear how the company’s capacity expansion programme will achieve that goal given it has focused nearly all its investments abroad. This is despite the recent announcement by the Thai government that it wanted the country’s renewables sector to grow quickly to 25% of total generating capacity by 2021 to reduce dependence on imported natural gas fuel.

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