pv magazine Australia: Risen has a global project pipeline of around 5 GW. With approximately 1 GW in Australia alone, it’s pretty clear that the market is a real priority. Why is the Australian market attractive to Risen as a project developer?
Xiejian: Australia is actually a mature market in terms of its electricity market. That means that solar projects are not dependent on feed-in tariffs or government incentives – it relies instead on market forces. That is why we’ve allocated resources to Australia, to acquire projects. We believe overall that Australia is shifting its energy resources towards cleantech energy – and especially solar. That is a good macro environment for solar. There is also quite a clear and reliable electricity system, for investors.
You must have made a significant investment in Australia to achieve these goals. Can you describe what you’ve actually done?
We have those two projects, which is more than 200 MW that will be connected this year. We have overall, almost 2 GW pipeline in Australia. We have established ourselves very well in the market and we will continue to invest for the next years.
At least of the Australian projects, as I understand it, is being developed on a merchant basis. This brings with it considerable risk doesn’t it?
Yes, but there is risk everywhere. It is a case of being careful and identifying the risk factors, to be able to come up with solutions. The key is to understand very well where the risk is, and because we’ve done that, I don’t see there being any problems for us. We also have many years of experience in developing projects – right back to 2010. We developed smaller projects in Italy, in Eastern Europe and from that we learned a lot of lessons and have build our experience. And building on that, we decided we can do more in terms of project development.
This month you announced that Risen has achieved 120 MW of module sales to the rooftop market over the last 12 months. That seems like very fast growth in a short period of time. To what do you attribute it?
We have invested in a local Australian team, in market channels, in sales, service and branding. But what is also important is that the project business has assisted with our module sales, particularly in Australia. Because we are developing bigger projects in Australia, the market and the customers know that we are a good company, with good investment in the country, then people know the brand, they know we are reliable, and it enhances our sales. The project business and the sales complement each other.
It’s not only Australia, but the APAC region more generally appears to be a real focus for Risen. And Vietnam has really been one of the stars of the 2019 solar market. What has been your experience there?
We had quite a similar experience in Vietnam as we had in Australia. We have been developing two projects in Vietnam. This means that almost every project developer and EPC in Vietnam understand Risen very well, and they know how we have invested a lot in developing a local team. That has allowed us to have a good performance in Vietnam.
Developing PV projects can have longer investment cycles, and is capital intensive, than module manufacturing. Is that a challenge to balance these?
Project development does rely heavily on capital. But that is why we always take a careful approach and we do things step-by-step. We build around 1 GW of projects each year and balance between the project and the manufacturing business. We are not overly aggressive on our projects. And now the situation is quite good.
So, you believe something approaching 10 GW of production capacity and around 1 GW of projects under construction is a good balance in the 2019 market?
Yes I do. And, I have to add again that it is 10 GW of module capacity, of which 5 GW is high efficiency cells.
And what is on your horizon? What is coming up?
Risen is a tier one company in the global solar market with an increasing production capacity. But we will balance our capacity expansion with global demand growth. We will be in the top three, and continue to invest in projects. We will work on projects of around 1 GW each year across the next three-to-five years and invest more resources, in terms of capital, in this. We can describe this as being a true leader in the industry: in terms of module technology and quality; service; projects – and here we will be a steady and reliable partner.
I think that Risen is growing very fast, but we have to remember that Risen has a long history. We went into this industry almost 15 years ago, back to early 2003 or 2004. We are young in the industry but we are also old! Based on the current situation, Risen wants to grow to become a leader in the industry. We will keep investing in technology, service, products and keep a very good brand and reputation in the market. We want to be a reliable partner for the solar industry and the world.