Thailand’s solar energy market has grown strongly and steadily in recent years, making the country one of the most secure demand centers for renewable technology in Southeast Asia. Polytechnology, a diversified company with a large and growing green energy division, has more than doubled its solar inverter sales every year since 2016. Today, the company has the largest share of the solar inverter market in Thailand.
Recent changes to Thailand’s safety standards and rapid shutdown regulations for solar power systems make optimization a growing trend in the country, Leeraphant says, adding, “So we can grow our sales, from just inverters to inverters and optimizers, where our solution is the most advanced on the market.”
Solar energy is so well-established in Thailand that it is already difficult to install more roof systems in some areas, Leeraphant says, so technology to store and use the green energy generated is increasingly needed.
Polytechnology has partnered with Huawei since 2014, starting as the brand’s inverter distributor in Thailand and now providing the latter with a range of battery energy storage systems and data center products. Leeraphant says about the battery systems: “Polytechnology and Huawei have addressed the price, customer expectations and what the current battery technology can offer.” The next step, he says, is to increase market education about safety standards and the value of advanced battery technology so that the energy storage market matures.
While the Asian roofing market is still dominated by commercial and industrial installations, Leeraphant says household demand is growing. The primary barrier to residential construction is that most people aren’t actually home during the day to use the solar energy their panels would generate. Leeraphant believes that Huawei’s LUNA2000 home battery, which Polytechnology will bring to the Thai market in 2022, will fill this gap, allowing households to shift their solar energy to consume it during the evening.
The demand for integrated renewable technology product bundles is also growing. This full-stack strategy is becoming increasingly popular with both solar manufacturers and retailers worldwide, and is particularly valuable in Southeast Asia, where power grids remain a challenge. These integrated product lines are easier to install and more user-friendly – especially important in a region where renewable technology has emerged somewhat later than in Europe, the US and Australia.
Full-stack bundles are valuable for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) companies, Leeraphant says. “To install rooftop solar,” he explains, “the price is sometimes very high because there are a lot of players, so adding electric car charging adds more value compared to other competitors.”
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Added value is often on Leeraphant’s mind – along with being the director of Polytechnology, he owns a multinational restaurant franchising company and the Thai International School. While these efforts seem to have little in common with the solar industry, Leeraphant sees many contradictions. The restaurant industry has provided lessons in managing the lower levels of energy retailers, Leeraphant says, while the school has provided both a platform to teach renewable technology to a generation of students and an opportunity to showcase products to parents who make up the ranks of top executives and business owners.
For Leeraphant, the key to good business is to remain open to new technology, even if it disrupts companies. Although polytechnology has long been involved in the energy sector, its roots are in oil and gas. Nevertheless, the company entered the new green market as early as 2011 and installed Thailand’s first public electric car charger two years later, long before electric cars and charging products became mainstream. “Polytech had been exploring the electric car business since 2011, well before other companies,” says Leeraphant.
As of 2020, demand for electric cars and related charging equipment has increased, Leeraphant says, which puts Polytechnology in a strong position to leverage its expertise in the field. The polytechnology entrepreneur sees particularly large growth opportunities in public DC (direct current) chargers, which Leeraphant’s company has already installed around 450 nationwide. In 2021, the company delivered 120 MW of DC charging capacity and almost quadrupled last year when it reached 450 MW. The demand for home and office chargers is also at its peak in Thailand, Leeraphant says.
As countries around the world commit to carbon neutrality and demand for electricity in Asia is expected to grow strongly, Leeraphant believes that demand for solar energy, electric cars and battery products – today’s suite of key decarbonisation technologies – will continue to rise. “We see our growth continuing to accelerate strongly in these next few years,” he says, “if we get the right partners.”
“The key to success is that you have to be open to new technology or new alliances all the time,” Leeraphant adds. “Maybe it’s not the right time yet, but when the time comes, you have to be ready and be the first to determine the direction of the market, otherwise you can only be a follower of the market.”