Partnerships and innovations are key to energy transformation

On Assets‘S 9th Asian Leaders’ Dialogue on Sustainable Infrastructure Financing in Singapore on July 9, Indonesia, India, Laos and the Philippines were presented as key countries in Asia’s transition to clean energy.

During the first discussion of the event, a group of industry experts and innovators shared their experience in financing and developing projects in sectors such as renewable energy, cross-border energy projects, network infrastructure development and data centers.

Discussions highlighted the need for greater collaboration between policymakers, funders, banks and investors to harness the potential of Asia’s clean energy revolution.

Panelists also stressed the need to reduce Asia’s dependence on fossil fuels, especially coal, to enable a smoother transition to renewable energy.

Fatima Al Suwaidi, head of development and investment for the Asia-Pacific region and president-manager for Indonesia at Abu Dhabi-based clean energy company Masdar, shared her experience in financing and developing the Cirata floating solar power plant on a reservoir in West Java province, about 130 kilometers from Jakarta.

Al Suwaidi said the project, which is powered by 340,000 solar panels and generates 192 megawatts (MW) of clean electricity, has faced numerous challenges, including defining floating solar panels within Indonesian regulations and navigating complex geographic conditions. “Despite these challenges,” she said, “the project was financially finalized in November 2023, about a year and a half after the power purchase agreement was signed.”

The discussion then turned to the broader context of infrastructure development in Southeast Asia and the importance of partnerships with local actors in addressing political and regulatory risks.

Kanishk Bhatia, head of infrastructure and private funds at asset manager ESR Group, highlighted his firm’s work with local partners in Indonesia on logistics and infrastructure projects, emphasising the importance of local partnerships in mitigating risk and ensuring project success.

The audience was also invited to a panel discussion to answer a question about the biggest challenge facing investors in infrastructure projects in Asia. 75% of participants said the most important issue was the maturity and/or unpredictability of regulations in the region.

India is rising

The discussion then turned to India and the country’s growing infrastructure sector, with a focus on renewable energy and large-scale projects.

Anupam Misra, director, corporate finance, Adani Group India, told the packed ballroom that India is a market with huge growth potential across infrastructure sub-segments such as renewable energy, roads and data centres.

Misra cited the recent example of a 640 MW solar project in India that his company completed in just nine months, despite significant challenges.

Misra added that the project is being built on a huge plot of land in Gujarat and has the potential to house a 30-gigawatt solar project, making it the largest single power plant in the world.

Jackie Surtani, Regional Director of the Asian Development Bank, also discussed the possibility of distributing clean energy generated by such large-scale renewable energy projects. He highlighted a major cross-border renewable energy project in Laos, the Monsoon Wind Power project.

The $692 million, 600 MW project is seen as a role model for future regional cooperation and an example of how countries with large renewable energy resources can export energy to neighboring countries while supporting regional energy security and cooperation.

Challenges in infrastructure financing were also discussed, with particular emphasis on rising financing costs and the impact of inflation. Despite the higher financing costs, panelists, including Devin Chan, Deputy Executive Director of Infrastructure Asia based in Singapore, stressed the importance of a long-term perspective in infrastructure investment.

The conversation also highlighted the significant role of green and sustainability-linked bonds in financing these projects. Ray Tay, senior vice president of project finance and infrastructure at Moody’s Ratings, noted that despite macroeconomic challenges, investors were very interested in green and sustainable infrastructure projects.

Overall, the talk highlighted the complexities and opportunities associated with developing large-scale renewable energy and infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia and India, the importance of local partnerships, innovative financing models and long-term perspectives.

Panelists shared practical advice on how to address the challenges and capitalize on the significant growth opportunities in these dynamic markets.

Stay tuned for more post-event content from our 9th Asia Leaders’ Dialogue on Sustainable Infrastructure Financing.