Matthew Peloso is a highly-driven entrepreneur whose goal is to establish commercial solutions using technology for a better world.
1. Being named as one of the most innovative companies in 2016 by Fast Company, was surely a proud moment for you and Sun Electric. What is your advice for start-ups and entrepreneurs embarking in the solar industry business?
Be different, really different. Solve real problems. Bring industry problems close to you. Listen to your customers, and get ready for a marathon. Entrepreneurship isn’t a sprint.
2. Do you subscribe to a motto or philosophy in work/personal life?
This has changed a lot from when I started my entrepreneurship journey in 2012. I used to think that I could change the energy industry with innovation – and I was motivated a lot through the potential in knowing that I was doing the right thing, advancing and improving power for consumers and the future power sector. Through this period, I have come to learn that I can’t work through this on my own. I know now that it takes a group to work ahead on the advancement of the energy sector. It is up to us to see the benefits. Through this, I have learnt that we need to be objective and rational in the development of work and life.
3. You’ve been in the solar industry for several years now. Is there a significant achievement or milestone for you personally or for the company?
All around the world, the electricity sector has traditionally been heavily regulated. Despite the barriers to entry in a heavily regulated market, Sun Electric has made a lot of progress on its milestones. To date, we have sealed more than 32 MWp of solar projects in Singapore, allowing previously-underutilised roof spaces in Singapore to generate clean energy for their city. An increasing number of local businesses have taken up clean energy packages from Sun Electric which source their power from their own city’s rooftops. Companies big and small can now play their part for the environment and their city, while saving money off the electricity tariff and making money from their rooftops.
In addition, in June 2017, Sun Electric won the first SolarRoof contract from JTC, Singapore’s leading agency for industrial infrastructure. This 15-20 year contract will allow Sun Electric to install solar panels on the rooftops of 27 JTC buildings and export the solar energy for other users connected to them through the power grid, meaning we have succeeded in marking a new disruptive business model that is transforming the power market. Under existing solar leasing models, power generated primarily served only the building forcing rooftops out of utilisation. The new business model will allow Sun Electric to generate an additional 5 MWp of solar-generated electricity with JTC connecting users across cities. To solve that problem, instead of buildings, we think cities – and that is making all the difference.
4. If you were not doing what you’re currently doing now in the solar industry, what other career option do you think you might have pursued?
Before I set up Sun Electric, I was starting to explore career options in the legal industry and would have been involved in patent law and innovation inside a technology business. I had been a consultant for entrepreneurs, helping them look at ways to register intangible assets or develop them. I was also out in the solar industry looking for work in technology development. Luckily for me, no one made me an offer and I got to become an entrepreneur with the potential to transform the energy sector.
5. The energy industry is in transition at the moment. From the use of hydrocarbons to cleaner renewable energy options. What are your thoughts about when the demand for oil and gas will peak? 2025, 2030, 2035, 2040?
It is notoriously difficult to predict the demand for oil and gas. However, what is driving volumes in the renewable sector is a mix of continued support with the implementation of larger scale installations and price reduction. Outside of the transport sector, oil may already see its peak while gas and renewables come into the mix. However, the demand for gas would not disappear right away. Realistically, renewables cannot cover 100% of what you need unless there are dramatic improvements in storage capacity, so we work towards creating an achievable goal. We believe that most cities (in particular, densely populated cities) can generate about 10% of their power needs from their own rooftops and we are enabling this realistic target through the SolarSpaceTM platform for smart cities. We think setting something achievable is important for our world to look seriously at the renewable power industry to provide the largest benefits to electricity consumers.
6. As Sun Electric expands its presence globally (USA, Australia, Japan, and the Philippines), you will be planning to increase your workforce. What type of skills or characteristics are you looking for in a team member?
Given the heavily regulated nature of the power sector, it requires people with the discipline and patience to navigate through the dense thicket of regulations and the inertia of the sector. At the same time, we require creative individuals with the foresight to see through a new era of energy and to continue innovating. It is a tough mix to balance both skillsets required.
7. Can you tell us the biggest challenges Sun Electric has faced so far, and how did you overcome them?
Given that the energy/utilities sector has always been tightly regulated and that consumers are used dealing with the incumbents, the challenge we face is to give consumers the impetus to switch from their legacy power providers, and to challenge their conceptions around access to clean energy.
8. As Singapore is space constrained, do you see an emerging demand and market for offshore solar farms developing here?
There is some potential demand, which is essentially facilitated by the government. However, the focus on rooftops is still quite important as there are still so many under-utilised rooftops! I believe expertise developed here is much more important in terms of the evolution of the power sector than in offshore solar farms and focusing on rooftop solar provides our firm with capabilities which are significantly scalable and less expensive. Future cities will incorporate energy generating infrastructure within their own architecture. We don’t need to go far from the city to get power from our environment. It is right here already.
9. Other than in Singapore, where else do you think in Asia, has seen significant growth in the solar industry?
Apart from solar energy, Asia has access to multiple renewable energy options including wind, geothermal and hydro. Asia is also home to many densely-populated cities (e.g. Jakarta, Manilla, Bangkok) where demand for energy is high, putting a strain on the nation’s grid and creating the need for a renewable source of energy. However due to space constraints and lack of infrastructure, not all renewable energy sources are feasible.
Solar energy, we believe, remains the most viable renewable energy option for cities across Asia. Our business model has the potential to overcome the challenges faced by densely populated cities, such as space constraints and addresses limitations of intermittent power supply, as the solar-generated power is fully integrated with the grid. We believe that Sun Electric will facilitate the widespread adoption of solar energy, not only in Singapore but in these densely-populated cities across Asia.
10. Where do you see the industry in the next 10-20 years?
We expect major advancements in energy storage capacity (battery) to happen in the next 3-5 years. Tesla recently constructed one of the world’s biggest battery, the size of an American football field, in South Australia to address the country’s energy woes. If the technology proves to be sustainable, this would ease the problem of intermittency - solar will be able to serve not only as a peaking power resource but also be a source of base load power which is currently incapable of doing so. This will potentially change the future of energy globally. Improvements in data connectivity will be a big impetus for new energy technologies. The potential of this will be further enhanced when regulators open up the information systems architecture that traditional utilities companies have access to, to newer and more innovative companies in the power sector.
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The vast Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan’s portion of the South Caspian Sea marked several milestones in 2018. It has now produced a cumulative total of 100 billion cubic metres of natural gas since the field started up in 2006, with daily output reaching a new peak, growing by 12.5% y-o-y. At a cost of US$28 billion, Shah Deniz – with its estimated 1.2 trillion cubic metres of gas resources – has proven to be an unparalleled success, being a founding link of Europe’s Southern Gas Corridor and coming in relatively on budget and on time. And now BP, along with its partners, is hoping to replicate that success with an ambitious exploration schedule over the next two years.
Four new exploration wells in three blocks, along with a seismic survey of a fourth, are planned for 2019 and an additional three wells in 2020. The aggressive programme is aimed at confirming a long-held belief by BP and SOCAR there are more significant pockets of gas swirling around the area. The first exploratory well is targeting the Shafag-Asiman block, where initial seismic surveys suggest natural gas reserves of some 500 billion cubic metres; if confirmed, that would make it the second-largest gas field ever discovered in the Caspian, behind only Shah Deniz. BP also suspects that Shah Deniz itself could be bigger than expected – the company has long predicted the existence of a second, deeper reservoir below the existing field, and a ‘further assessment’ is planned for 2020 to get to the bottom of the case, so to speak.
Two wells are planned to be drilled in the Shallow Water Absheron Peninsula (SWAP) block, some 30km southeast of Baku, where BP operates in equal partnership with SOCAR, with an additional well planned for 2020. The goal at SWAP is light crude oil, as is a seismic survey in the deepwater Caspian Sea Block D230 where a ‘significant amount’ of oil is expected. Exploration in the onshore Gobustan block, an inland field 50km north of Baku, rounds up BP’s upstream programme and the company expects that at least one seven wells of these will yield a bonanza that will take Azerbaijan’s reserves well into the middle of the century.
Developments in the Caspian are key, as it is the starting node of the Southern Gas Corridor – meant to deliver gas to Europe. Shah Deniz gas currently makes its way to Turkey via the South Caucasus Gas pipeline and exports onwards to Europe should begin when the US$8.5 billion, 32 bcm/y Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) starts service in 2020. Planned output from Azerbaijan currently only fills half of the TANAP capacity, meaning there is room for plenty more gas, if BP can find it. From Turkey, Azeri gas will link up to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline in Greece and connect into Turkey, potentially joined by other pipelines projects that are planned to link up with gas production in Israel. This alternate source of natural gas for Europe is crucial, particularly since political will to push through the Nordstream-2 pipeline connecting Russian gas to Germany is slackening. The demand is there and so is the infrastructure. And now BP will be spending the next two years trying to prove that the supply exists underneath Azerbaijan.
BP’s upcoming planned exploration in the Caspian:
When it was first announced in 2012, there was scepticism about whether or not Petronas’ RAPID refinery in Johor was destined for reality or cancellation. It came at a time when the refining industry saw multiple ambitious, sometimes unpractical, projects announced. At that point, Petronas – though one of the most respected state oil firms – was still seen as more of an upstream player internationally. Its downstream forays were largely confined to its home base Malaysia and specialty chemicals, as well as a surprising venture into South African through Engen. Its refineries, too, were relatively small. So the announcement that Petronas was planning essentially, its own Jamnagar, promoted some pessimism. Could it succeed?
It has. The RAPID refinery – part of a larger plan to turn the Pengerang district in southern Johor into an oil refining and storage hub capitalising on linkages with Singapore – received its first cargo of crude oil for testing in September 2018. Mechanical completion was achieved on November 29 and all critical units have begun commissioning ahead of the expected firing up of RAPID’s 300 kb/d CDU later this month. A second cargo of 2 million barrels of Saudi crude arrived at RAPID last week. It seems like it’s all systems go for RAPID. But it wasn’t always so clear cut. Financing difficulties – and the 2015 crude oil price crash – put the US$27 billion project on shaky ground for a while, and it was only when Saudi Aramco swooped in to purchase a US$7 billion stake in the project that it started coalescing. Petronas had been courting Aramco since the start of the project, mainly as a crude provider, but having the Saudi giant on board was the final step towards FID. It guaranteed a stable supply of crude for Petronas; and for Aramco, RAPID gave it a foothold in a major global refining hub area as part of its strategy to expand downstream.
But RAPID will be entering into a market quite different than when it was first announced. In 2012, demand for fuel products was concentrated on light distillates; in 2019, that focus has changed. Impending new International Maritime Organisation (IMO) regulations are requiring shippers to switch from burning cheap (and dirty) fuel oil to using cleaner middle distillate gasoils. This plays well into complex refineries like RAPID, specialising in cracking heavy and medium Arabian crude into valuable products. But the issue is that Asia and the rest of the world is currently swamped with gasoline. A whole host of new Asian refineries – the latest being the 200 kb/d Nghi Son in Vietnam – have contributed to growing volumes of gasoline with no home in Asia. Gasoline refining margins in Singapore have taken a hit, falling into negative territory for the first time in seven years. Adding RAPID to the equation places more pressure on gasoline margins, even though margins for middle distillates are still very healthy. And with three other large Asian refinery projects scheduled to come online in 2019 – one in Brunei and two in China – that glut will only grow.
The safety valve for RAPID (and indeed the other refineries due this year) is that they have been planned with deep petrochemicals integration, using naphtha produced from the refinery portion. RAPID itself is planned to have capacity of 3 million tpa of ethylene, propylene and other olefins – still a lucrative market that justifies the mega-investment. But it will be at least two years before RAPID’s petrochemicals portion will be ready to start up, and when it does, it’ll face the same set of challenging circumstances as refineries like Hengli’s 400 kb/d Dalian Changxing plant also bring online their petchem operations. But that is a problem for the future and for now, RAPID is first out of the gate into reality. It won’t be entering in a bonanza fuels market as predicted in 2012, but there is still space in the market for RAPID – and a few other like in – at least for now.
RAPID Refinery Factsheet:
Tyre market in Bangladesh is forecasted to grow at over 9% until 2020 on the back of growth in automobile sales, advancements in public infrastructure, and development-seeking government policies.
The government has emphasized on the road infrastructure of the country, which has been instrumental in driving vehicle sales in the country.
The tyre market reached Tk 4,750 crore last year, up from about Tk 4,000 crore in 2017, according to market insiders.
The commercial vehicle tyre segment dominates this industry with around 80% of the market share. At least 1.5 lakh pieces of tyres in the segment were sold in 2018.
In the commercial vehicle tyre segment, the MRF's market share is 30%. Apollo controls 5% of the segment, Birla 10%, CEAT 3%, and Hankook 1%. The rest 51% is controlled by non-branded Chinese tyres.
However, Bangladesh mostly lacks in tyre manufacturing setups, which leads to tyre imports from other countries as the only feasible option to meet the demand. The company largely imports tyre from China, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan.
Automobile and tyre sales in Bangladesh are expected to grow with the rising in purchasing power of people as well as growing investments and joint ventures of foreign market players. The country might become the exporting destination for global tyre manufacturers.
Several global tyre giants have also expressed interest in making significant investments by setting up their manufacturing units in the country.
This reflects an opportunity for local companies to set up an indigenous manufacturing base in Bangladesh and also enables foreign players to set up their localized production facilities to capture a significant market.
It can be said that, the rise in automobile sales, improvement in public infrastructure, and growth in purchasing power to drive the tyre market over the next five years.