By Madelaine B. Miraflor
NINH THUAN, Vietnam — AC Energy, the power unit of Philippines-based conglomerate Ayala Corporation, is now more focused on its overseas expansion following the commissioning of its biggest renewable energy (RE) venture here, which also happens to be the biggest solar farm in Southeast Asia.
Over the weekend, AC Energy has commissioned its maiden project here, a 330-MW solar farm co-developed with Vietnam’s BIM Group.
The commissioning of the solar farm is seen as a milestone in the AC Energy’s regional expansion where it aims to reach its target of 5 gigawatts (GW) of energy capacity by 2025 with renewables contributing at least 50 percent of the company’s total energy output.
AC Energy Chairman Fernando Zobel de Ayala told reporters here that while the company is still eyeing more RE projects in Vietnam, it continues to look at investment opportunities beyond the Southeast Asian country with preference for countries that have created a friendly environment for foreign investors.
For instance, he said, Vietnam has been very aggressive in attracting foreign investments and that its government had successfully created an ideal environment for foreign groups like AC Energy.
Eric Francia, AC Energy President and CEO, said that aside from Indonesia and Australia, the company is also looking at one particular foreign market that would be the firm’s next overseas stop.
Without naming the country, he said it is going to be “within the Asia Pacific and not just limited to Southeast Asia.”
And while Zobel de Ayala said AC Energy “would still love to do more RE projects in the Philippines,” Francia said the company is not “rushing to build” more right now.
Located within a 300-hectare property in Ninh Thuan province, the newly commissioned BIMAC Renewables solar farm is one of the largest solar farms in Southeast Asia with investments of as much as $294 million. Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) was the sole lender for the project, providing non-recourse project financing of $232 million.
The inauguration and ceremonial switch-on of the facility was led by Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, Ninth Thuan Provincial Party Secretary Nguyen Duc Thanh, Ninh Thuan Chairman of People’s Committee, Luu Xuan Vinh, Ayala Corporation President and Chief Operating Officer Fernando Zobel de Ayala, and BIM Group Chairman Doan Quoc Viet.
BIM Group is a diversified corporation in Vietnam, with four main business fields namely: Tourism Development & Real Estate Investment, Agriculture – Food, Commercial Services and Renewable Energy.
In an interview here, BIM Group Chief Executive Officer Doan Quoc Huy said that right now, his company is in talks with AC Energy to push for more RE projects for its Ninh Thuan property.
“We are discussing other projects. We are looking at wind right now,” Quoc Huy said, adding that there is one specific wind project being particularly discussed.
The plan of BIM group, he said, is to be able to generate 600 million kwh per year, which will benefit 200,000 households.
The Ninh Thuan solar farm is expected to generate 545 million kWh of renewable energy annually and generate income and jobs for the province of Ninh Thuan.
The solar farm, comprising three facilities with installed capacities of 30 MW, 250 MW, and 50 MW, respectively, is the first project under BIMAC Renewables, the renewable energy development platform of AC Energy and the BIM Group. The construction of the project started in January 2018.
In 2017, AC Energy has also formed a platform company with AMI Renewables to build more renewable energy plants in Vietnam, including the 352 MW Quang Binh wind project.
AC Energy, in partnership with AMI Renewables Energy Joint Stock Co., in October last year signed engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) and financing documents for the development of another solar plant project in Vietnam.
The joint venture is particularly planning to build solar farms totaling 80 MW in the provinces of Khanh Hoa and Dak Lak, to be commissioned in time for the June 2019 solar feed-in tariff deadline.