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Renewable Energy’s Bright Future in Asia

Date: 08 October 2018

Interest, technology and investment in renewable energy (RE) is rapidly gaining pace across the world, facilitated by falling costs, capacity targets, government initiatives and financial incentives. Asia, with its ideal mix of excellent resources and lower-than-average installed costs, is set to be a major player in the RE market – and that means plenty of opportunities in this booming sector for businesses and talent alike, as outlined in our latest report.

Sector Heats Up as Costs of Renewables Fall

The cost of renewable energy sources is dropping rapidly, making them a viable and competitive alternative to fossil fuels. With the cost of generating photovoltaic (PV) solar and onshore wind power falling dramatically in recent years, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) predicts that by 2020, the cost of generating electricity from renewable sources will drop to below that from traditional fossil fuels.(1)

Renewable energy makes economic sense, and falling costs combined with financial and regulatory support have led to a surge in investment in renewable energy production in Asia, particularly in solar and wind energy. The Asia-Pacific region accounted for 47 per cent of new RE investment globally in 2016, as reported by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).(2) In Southeast Asia, the region’s confluence of strong economic growth, rising energy demands, a shortage of traditional energy sources, lack of infrastructure in remote areas, the abundance of sunshine and government backing,(3) provide it with the launch pad to become a driving force in the renewables sector.  

China a Solar Energy Powerhouse

In 2017 China was the largest solar market in the world, accounting for nearly 54 per cent of global solar PV installations,(4) and it contributes over 40 per cent of global investment in solar PV according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).(5)

An S&P Global Ratings report points to China’s developing approach to carbon trading, the merging of state-owned enterprises and increased capital expenditure under the Belt and Road initiative as drivers of fresh competition and expansion(6). However, recent policy changes announced in China in mid-2018 may affect the rate of growth as subsidies for some solar projects are rolled back and installation caps imposed. Because of China’s dominance in the solar energy space, any major policy changes could affect markets in Asia and around the world.(7)

US Tariffs Could Benefit Emerging Markets

A recent Forbes article suggested that US President Trump’s imposition of a 30 per cent trade tariff on imported solar panels could foster growth in solar markets outside the US, as the resulting increase in domestic solar module prices could cause manufacturing overcapacity that would drive global prices down. This could particularly benefit emerging and underdeveloped markets, such as in Asia, stimulating further development.(8)

Some Chinese solar panel makers are also moving their manufacturing to other countries in Asia, as well as building factories in the US so they can remain in the US market.(9)

Asia’s Continued Renewable Energy Drive

With prices continuing to fall, growing investment and renewable energy targets set for many countries in Asia, the renewable energy sector is set to undergo rapid expansion in the coming years. Asian governments are demonstrating their commitment to RE with favourable regulatory frameworks and financing platforms, improved infrastructure, land allocation for RE projects by regional governments,(10) and by creating entities like Singapore’s Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) to develop industry-oriented research and development for the local solar energy sector.(11)

Key trends identified in a recent PwC report, such as the use of mini-grids and hybrids, utility-scale battery storage, building integration and greater use of artificial intelligence, amongst other developments,(12) will continue facilitating growth in Asia’s RE.

Renewable Energy Growth Creates a War for Talent

Growth in RE does not only rely on technology and infrastructure. Without talented, skilled professionals to implement and drive operations and innovation, the industry could not thrive.

Accelerating growth in the sector means that competition for qualified candidates throughout APAC is fierce. Employment in global renewables has grown every year since 2012, with jobs in solar PV the largest segment in 2016, led by China, Brazil, the US, India, Japan and Germany. Asian countries accounted for 62 per cent of total jobs in 2016, compared with 50 per cent in 2013.(13) IRENA projects that jobs in renewables could total 24 million by 2030.(14)  

In Asia, we have observed a particularly strong demand for high-calibre environmental and electrical engineers and field specialists. Because of the limited pool of industry talent in Asia, companies are poaching talent from their competitors, as well as from traditional energy and electric power suppliers.

Relocation Opportunities Put Pressure on Acquiring Local Talent

The scarcity of talent is also seeing solar power producers and developers looking outside the industry for those with relevant transferable skills, such as from the wind power sector, investment and financial modelling professionals from banks, or project finance and contract managers from professional law firms. Candidates with transferable skills are also widening their field of vision to maximise their opportunities.

Candidates are moving not only across industries but geographies. Increased activity in developed economies such as Japan, Singapore, Korea and Australia is providing opportunities for engineers and technical professionals to relocate, leaving countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand with a shortage of local talent.

In such a competitive environment it’s a candidate’s market. In order to recruit but also retain the top professionals in the industry, companies must present an attractive EVP and offer ‘the complete package’. That means stimulation, innovation and the opportunity to be involved in large-scale projects, as well as competitive compensation, opportunities for career progression, a strong workplace culture and maximum flexibility (for example, in relation to travel requirements and work-life balance).

Renewable energy is one of the most exciting sectors in Asia at the moment, but it takes skill to navigate in such a rapidly developing environment. To accomplish that, organisations need to understand the needs of the market and attract the best talent.

Read The Full Report

To receive the full report on Asia’s renewable energy market and recruitment, fill out the form and one of our consultants will be in touch shortly.
References:
1 https://www.forbes.com/sites/dominicdudley/2018/01/13/renewable-energy-cost-effective-fossil-fuels-2020/#2dd687064ff2
2 https://www.pwc.com/sg/en/publications/assets/renewable-energy-in-asia-pacific-2018.pdf
3 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-asia-renewables-analysis/here-comes-the-sun-investors-increasingly-hot-on-solar-projects-in-s-e-asia-idUSKBN18Y0DU
4 https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/chinas-bombshell-solar-policy-could-cut-capacity-20-gigawatts#gs.7AyIl2w
5 https://www.iea.org/newsroom/news/2018/july/global-energy-investment-in-2017-.html
6 https://www.spratings.com/documents/20184/1634005/Industry+Top+Trends+2018+Utilities+%E2%80%93+Asia-Pacific/a66c5b5d-4d08-4b88-ba77-03d669db1f81
7 https://mercomindia.com/major-policy-change-china-affect-global-solar/
8 https://www.forbes.com/sites/augustrick/2018/01/18/why-a-solar-tariff-in-the-u-s-could-benefit-other-countries/#1aa61f1a5c8b
9 https://qz.com/1186661/trumps-america-first-policy-on-solar-panels-will-likely-benefit-china/
10 https://www.pwc.com/sg/en/publications/assets/renewable-energy-in-asia-pacific-2018.pdf
11 http://www.seris.nus.edu.sg/about-us/about-seris.html
12 https://www.pwc.com/sg/en/publications/assets/renewable-energy-in-asia-pacific-2018.pdf
13 https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/25/business/renewable-energy-growth-continues-powering-jobs-especially-asia/#.W6rU7n5oTUI
14 https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/25/business/renewable-energy-growth-continues-powering-jobs-especially-asia/#.W6rU7n5oTUI