Feature on APAC Outlook Magazine
16 February 2021
Harness the Sun, Transform the Future
Sol Proops, CEO at Blueleaf Energy, discusses the potential for exponential growth in Asia’s renewable sector and discusses his organisation’s sustainable approach
“Renewable energy is one of the global megatrends and Asia is a huge growth area for population, modernisation and electrification,” starts Sol Proops, CEO at Blueleaf Energy.
Today, Asia is a region with opportunity. It’s a place which offers potential for establishing energy networks across Asia and actively avoiding the growth of new fossil fuel generation.Proops has witnessed first-hand the dramatic change in approach over the past few years.
“We’re seeing that in developed countries the governments are turning towards making Net Zero targets law and this trend will further fuel the expansion of the sector,” he tells us.
Blueleaf has a mission to develop, deliver and operate safe, high quality, ethical onshore renewable energy projects, delivering a greener energy mix and lower power bills. Blueleaf is a portfolio firm that is owned by Macquarie’s Green Investment Group (GIG) and operates on a standalone basis. It specialises in the development, finance, construction, and operation of both commercial and industrial (C&I) and utility scale solar systems across the Asia Pacific region.
Recently, Blueleaf completed work on its first corporate PPA rooftop solar power plant in Penang, Malaysia, providing renewable energy to the automotive electronics plant for Bosch.
“This marks our first corporate power purchase agreement as we commence supply of power from a rooftop solar system,” says Proops.
“We are excited to contribute to Malaysia’s green energy transition and continue to play a role as we see growing corporate interest in renewable energy.”
The power generated by the three mega-watt (MW) plant is provided on a self-consumption basis with the opportunity for Bosch to sell excess generated energy back to the grid under Malaysia’s NEM (Net Energy Metering) scheme. In order to meet its commitment to clean renewable energy, Bosch dedicated a rooftop area of 24,500 metre-squared for the installation of around 7,500 solar panels. Despite the impact of COVID-19, the project was still completed quickly and to the highest safety and quality standards.
In November 2020, Blueleaf acquired a majority stake in Vibrant Energy from ATN International.
“By combining our global customer base and technical expertise with Vibrant Energy’s deep local knowledge and strong project pipeline, this acquisition offers C&I customers an exciting opportunity to take control of their energy needs and achieve their decarbonisation objectives,” Proops elaborates.
“With the acquisition of Vibrant Energy, we’ve secured a deeply talented team and an impressive development pipeline in one of the most significant and exciting markets for the solar energy industry.
“The transaction represents Blueleaf’s entry into the Indian market, which is now the third largest solar market in the world. From its current base of circa 35 GW, India is targeting the installation of 100 GW of solar capacity by 2022, and 300 GW by 2030. The county’s fast-growing solar C&I market will be a major contributor to this.
“We see India as a large market with huge growth potential and with the Vibrant Energy acquisition we expect to be able to participate more meaningfully and ramp up quickly.”
Proops recognises the value of developing key, strategic partnerships and believes that long-term collaborations are central to everything Blueleaf does.
“Our development partners are critical to what we do,” affirms Proops.
“These partners give us the scale and local intel required to play in the very diverse markets in Asia. Diverse in language, engineering standards, regulatory requirements, and culture. We are always on the lookout for great local partners with a channel of PPA customers or project sites that are looking for a partner that can complement these aspects with our global buying power, strong technical background and enviable access to funding.”
Under its previous ownership, Blueleaf Energy has been everything from a solar panel manufacturer to an inverter supplier and the company understands how vital a robust supply chain is.
“This enables us to talk with these parties on the same technical and quality terms and to be an educated client,” he says.
“Our supplier partners are key to developing and building valuable renewable energy assets and so a key part of what we do. Our other key supply chain segment are our EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) contractors,” adds Proops.
“We generally run a model where we ask a single EPC contractor to design and build the renewable energy asset that we own, with the exception of having the option to supply key components to them procured with global buying power by our solar experts in Hamburg.”
Blueleaf places considerable emphasis on its employees and Proops believes that staff are the key ingredient in what makes his organisation successful.
“Our staff are key to our future success and my aim is to give them the resources and support they need to be successful, for themselves and our business,” he affirms.
Proops admits he has a vision of who he wants to work at Blueleaf Energy from a recruitment perspective.
“We look for energetic, experienced staff and young team members that are willing to pitch in and move at pace to meet our growth objectives,” he explains further.
“We are actively seeking new members of the team in investment leadership roles in Taiwan, Philippines, and Vietnam currently, and are also looking to bolster our investment capabilities with financial analysts and investment managers that can run M&A deals, prepare financial models and investment cases, and raise debt as required. As a company with high growth expectations in an exploding sector we think this can offer our staff some exciting career prospects.”
With the future in mind, Proops has a clear idea of what the next couple of years at Blueleafwill look like.
“We have aspirations of exceeding 4GW of new renewable energy development over the next five years and everything we do is aimed at that target,” he tells us.
“In the immediate future, we aim to secure strong local development partnership arrangements and secure pipeline of work in our key markets, as well as building a strong customer base in the corporate PPA market. Historically the business has been solar focused, but we are working on some onshore wind and battery storage opportunities now that would make us a true onshore renewables platform.”