Interview with Ms. Phattanan Supasatien, COO, VOLT

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VOLT is Thailand’s leader in the field of solar marketplaces, and it was our pleasure to interview them. The solar marketplace is one of the renewable energy areas that is under heavy development at the moment, and we expect to be following their progress as they grow.  The Energy Bit would like to thank Phattanan for providing us with excellent content, and we hope our readers enjoy this as much as we did! 

Ms. Phattanan Supasatien, Chief Operating Officer, VOLT

Could you briefly explain VOLT’s business model?

Volt positions itself as an online solar rooftop marketplace that not only matches solar products and quality installers to customers’ requirements, but our services extend to finding affordable financial solutions for each project. On the installer’s side, we offer a management system that can help improve not only their marketing strategy but increase opportunities for local installers to expand to a much broader market.

We believe that with the right marketplace, it has the potential to improve the overall standard of the provided service while creating a transparent environment for both customers and solar rooftop installers. 

Could you open up about solar legislation in Thailand and the recent progress on it? How much is this going to affect solar deployment in Thailand?

For solar power to flourish in Thailand – it needs to be pushed from the top-down. The Thai government has been taking renewable energy issues more seriously and has laid down a Power Development Plan (PDP 2018) which essentially is an energy roadmap for the whole country that not just affects on an industrial level but also households; to start shifting to renewable sources, especially solar energy, which has to meet 37% of the total energy production by the year 2026. At the moment, households or smaller grid systems with less than 10KW are able to sell energy back to the grid at 1.68 THB/watt.

What do you see as the most critical need for the Thai energy industry that is also critical for VOLT?

Despite a significant decrease in solar prices over the last decade, we need more solid and consistent policies that not only create awareness but motivate the public with real incentives. Solar tax benefit has already been implemented on large-scale solar plants with a 50% tax reduction for three consecutive years and reduced import tariffs. This mechanism or tax structure needs to be designed for small businesses and households as well. Better solar rebates or flexible solar loans from financial institutes could encourage large populations to participate more.

How is VOLT growing awareness of green and solar energy? 

Rather than just educate, we need to update consumers’ perceptions regarding the solar rooftop system. We don’t want to only focus on the tech stuff but try to think of all the facets that could impact the buyers’ decisions before going solar. The stories that we want to tell the audiences should help them make an informed decision about whether solar is right for them now or in the near future – including how to assess cost-benefits in a smart way. We also want to grow the community and inspire people to go greener every day by incorporating local tech startups and eco-stores to be a part of every campaign that we do.

Can a household go completely “green” with you? 

Right now, our focus is solely on the solar rooftops, but hopefully, we’ll be able to expand our services that cater to smart living and smart homes that emphasize the sustainable living style.

Are you planning on expanding outside of Thailand? Or what is the plan for future expansion – does it include wind, hydro or other renewables?

Definitely! Southeast Asia is considered to be a very engaging and active market, but for our first year, we want to focus on the Thai market as we see the solar more suitable to the people’s lifestyle. Other renewables such as hydropower, nuclear, or biomass might require more technical skills to become a good fit for household usage. Solar power technology has evolved to the point where it is convenient and affordable. But you never know what will happen in the next 2-3 years and whether we will be able to see new renewables ready to go.

Rather than just educate, we need to update consumers’ perceptions regarding the solar rooftop system. We don’t want to only focus on the tech stuff but try to think of all the facets that could impact the buyers’ decisions before going solar.

How do you view the future of microgrids and P2P energy trading in Thailand?

There are already a couple of microgrid projects in Thailand, but not exclusively to renewables. Most of the existing ones owned by big corporations are powered by oil and gas. For solar microgrids, there are some prototype projects where each building provides and handles its own energy demand but still not commercialized. However, there will definitely be more in the future as in closed-loop, such as real estate projects, universities, or airports.

What is the most challenging aspect of bringing solar energy to be viable for the average consumer?

Consumers’ behavior and understanding of solar rooftops are catching up slowly while service providers are still used to the same market environment or traditional business flow. The dynamic of the industry has not yet gone up like other industries like finance that tries to simultaneously create a new pattern of behavior for users while adopting new technologies. Despite the price that has reduced more than 50% – it needs incentives from the government and financial institutes. As mentioned previously, house owners can really benefit from an environmentally-centric tax structure – reduced personal income tax policy from living an eco-lifestyle.

Another barrier we face is that most installers are still used to the same old methods – they still have doubts about how a marketplace could help create value and improve their performances. So there are still a lot of gaps that we need to fill.

How do you see the energy storage market outlook? How big of an increase does the grid need?

Batteries or other types of energy storage will play important roles in several segments – from transportation to agriculture to housing. We believe that it will not only increase the compatibility of solar rooftops but also expand the possibility for other renewables as well. Essentially, it allows energy consumers to become prosumers while being able to control their cost and usage better. At the moment, electricity cost still depends on sun hours, so the price fluctuates during peak and off-peak hours. In terms of “how big,” it will depend on the industry and the market it is in.

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