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Korean Solar Industry Speaks

Korean solar professionals hopes for the Korean solar industry in 2010

InterPV asked the leading PV companies in Korea and abroad for their hopes for the Korean solar industry and views on the market and its future. Some of them criticized the government policies for the current stalemate in the Korean solar market and some want to see Korean conglomerates such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai taking bigger roles in spearheading investment and technology innovation. But its great to see some optimism coming from the companies, recognizing all of the opportunities out there and willing to tackle current challenges head on. Hopefully, it actually leads to something useful.




Call for Government Action


Jun-Sik Kim, Technical Sales Manager at TASCO, a distributor of evaporation materials, sputtering target and wafer and single crystal substrates, says that the Korean government should fulfill its promise to boost the domestic solar industry to become a world leader and supplier of PV technology. He says, The government expressed many times before that it would drive the growth and development of the nations solar energy industry. Now its time to draw up realistic strategies and implementation plans that would actually give a boost to the industry and help solar companies do business.

Dae-Hern Ju, Deputy General Manager at Hankuk Relay, a manufacturer of relays, agrees, I want to see pretty concrete and practical plans from the government for the solar industry. For small and medium-sized companies, this year can be worse than the last unless more demand is created.

Speaking of market demand, Min-Su Lee, Manager of VE Department at AVACO, a vacuum and clean equipment manufacturer, comments, I think one way to create more demand would be through

policy support. I hope the Korean government sheds lights on the current problems facing the industry before its too late and makes every effort to produce a solution.

An idea for how to facilitate the growth of the domestic market through policy support is that Korea runs both the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) and Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) programs, according to Hyeon-Seok Shin, Assistant Manager of D-Solar Tech, a manufacturer of Typhoon-resistant solar trackers.

Il-Hee Cho, Assistant Manager of Krannich Solar, a manufacturer of solar modules, mounting systems and solar inverters, says that consistent government policy without much fluctuation is her hope for

this year. It is very important for the PV industry to have a stable program from the government because PV players are heavily influenced by the government policies, she adds.

After the governments announcement of RPS system which will replace feed-in tariff, the solar market is showing worrying signs on the change.

According to Jeong-Moon Seo, President of Song Am Trading, a distributor of solar cells, It seems that the government incentive programs focus on manufacturing industry, not on import business. I hope the government will support the import as well. Efficient support for equipment development and technology will be needed, too.

According to Yon-Seong Yang, Sales Manager at DASSTECH, a solar inverter manufacturer, State solar projects are taking up the majority of the whole solar industry. And the solar market is dependent on the government policies. So I think the policies should be predictable and consistent.

Hyun-Ho Choi, Assistant Manager of G&R Inc., one of the leading Korean solar system installers, points out a problem in support fund, saying, I hope the government will sufficiently support the companies who make inroads into foreign markets. Also, I would like to point out a problem in the support fund. There are only several big manufacturers who share the pie themselves.

For his part, K.S. Cho, Energy Business Dept/Technical Sales Team Manager of ZEUS, a module turnkey solution provider, says, I hope domestic solar market expands in line with the global solar growth.

In order to realize this, governmental support, with more substantial portion for the solar, is vital. Jae-Heon Jung, Marketing Manager of Renewable Energy at Samkwang Industrial Electric, a solar system provider, also hopes the government establishes policy measures, especially centering on small and medium-sized enterprises.

While a lot of PV players demand more support and incentive programs from the government, Ji-Wook Lee, Manager of Solar Cell Biz at LG Electronics, one of the leading Korean cell manufacturers,

points out, I think the solar industry already has proper political measures such as FiT and RPS. I hope PV players mind changes. They will need accurate understanding and medium- to long-term perspective for the industry.

Korean PV industry has experienced a beautiful growth thanks to the active government support and policies, but it seems that people in the industry need more, looking very thirsty for more support.


RPS, A New Support Program


Seon-Ki Cheong, Senior Manager of PR & Business Management at Millinet Solar, one of the leading Korean cell manufacturers, says that RPS system would come into operation and he hopes that some incentive programs on residential solar systems would come into effect as well. Also, I hope support for the domestic industry will increase substantially, he adds.

Shyn-Ki Jang, Assistant Manager of Symphony Energy follows the view. He hopes that the Korean government would operate two incentive programs?both RPS and FiT?simultaneously. This would be definitely helpful for PV players, but a feasibility is in question considering the current budget condition of Korea.

According to Yeon-Kyun Woo, Gerneral Manager of T&SOLAR, a solar module manufacturer, RPS would offer 130 MW for solar, but I think it is not sufficient. In order to promote the solar industry, I hope RPS for solar increases to 300 MW.

Speaking of RPS revision, Byoung-Chan Jung, Deputy General Manager of SPV (SEOUL PHOTOVOLTAIC), a renewable system provider, remarks that RPS needs to be revised in view of the solar system prices. He says that the prices are decreasing compared to the past, but the current RPS rate for solar is underestimated.


Need for Standardization


There is a view that Korea should focus on standardization in the field of PV technologies to increase the level of domestic technical expertise and competence and prevent unqualified or inferior products from selling as qualified ones. The market is flooded with cheap, uncertified products, mostly from China. The Korean solar industry needs to have standards in place for PV technologies and products to provide the customers with reliable, qualified products.

And the standards should desirably be at the same level with internationally recognized T V standards, in which case it would make it easier for the Korean companies to successfully enter foreign markets, says Joo-Nam Yoo, Deputy Head of SBU at LAPP KOREA, a leading supplier of cables and lines.


Domestic Market Expansion


Yang-won Jeong, CEO at KPE, a Korean cell manufacturer, focuses on domestic market. He says, Strengthening domestic market is crucial for active advance abroad. I believe strong domestic market

results in strong global market.

According to Hyun-Suk Sung from Department of Marketing at INTEK PLUS, a solar inspection system provider, At the moment, the Korean solar industry puts more stress on export, compared to domestic market. I hope the domestic demand revives for Korean solar companies to expand their businesses. They are able to complete the whole solar process?from manufacturing to installation.

Joo-Hyun Won, Manager of Sales and Marketing Team at KACO, a solar inverter manufacturer, follows the view, saying his hope is further expansion for the Korean solar market as well.

According to Clair Jang, Section Chief of Sales Dept at LST Energy, an importer of PV materials, I hope that the domestic market is more activated by RPS or other support programs such as 1 Million Green Home Project.


Indigenous Solar Manufacturing Equipment


The growth of the Korean semiconductor industry has been stunning. Within a 10-year period, Korean conglomerates went from being virtual non-players to capturing one-quarter of the world semiconductor market in 1994. Korean players in semiconductor markets are regarded by the U.S. and Japanese counterparts as formidable competitors. Many of the Korean solar industry professionals believe solar is highly likely to become the next big industry to propel Koreas growth. For the Korean solar industry to make significant strides in the global market, dependence on foreign equipment should be resolved, says Keuk-Sang Son, Manager of Strategic Planning at Shinsung Holdings, one of the leading solar cell makers in Korea, who claims it has its own technology to build solar equipment in-house. Commenting on how to reduce reliance on foreign equipment, Jai-Kyung Choi, CEO of JES SOLAR, a manufacturer of monocrystalline solar cells, emphasizes, The government should encourage Korean companies to develop indigenous solar manufacturing equipment through tax incentives and low-interest loans for R&D.

Some Korean cell makers are enjoying considerable success in foreign markets including China thanks largely to successful implementation of more efficient indigenous mass production techniques allowing more competitive unit pricing. 70-80% of our sales come from overseas markets such as China, Japan and the U.S.A. Weve been strategically targeting overseas markets from the very beginning while doing some R&D collaborations in Korea, says Coline Kang, Chief Director of YS Thermtech, a manufacturer of automated equipment for PV. Kang adds, I hope more cells are produced by using equipment made in Korea. To test the performance and reliability of the domestic equipment, we need a large quantity of materials. The cost of buying materials is burdensome for equipment manufacturers and there needs to be some cooperations in this regard in the industry. JES SOLARs CEO Choi shares the concern over material supply and cost. Choi says, An increase

in material price means an increase in prices across the whole value chain, damaging industrys competitiveness. The Korean government needs to step in here. It should invest heavily in material production business and nurture it as nations key industry.

Jong-Man Lim, President of LST Energy, says, There are some Korean companies who manufacture PV materials such as ribbons and backsheets. Korea has been largely dependent on foreign companies for the supply of these materials, but theres been a significant improvement in quality of Korean products recently. LST Energy imports materials for local module manufacturers and export their end products back to other countries. We hope to see more technology developments from Korean companies to introduce to international markets.

While Korean manufacturers of PV equipment are hoping to see increased adoption of their technology in the local market for the health of the industry, foreign equipment makers bet on quality.

Min-Joo Kim, Head of Business Administration at Centrotherm photovoltaics Korea, says, When purchasing a turnkey production line, you need to consider line throughput, efficiency, production yield and after-sales service over price. For cell and module producers, success may hinge on the mentioned factors.

Roles for Large Korean Companies in Solar In 2008, Korea came 4th in the list of installed PV capacity according to EPIA statistics. This position was achieved thanks to a favorable feed-in tariff system with a cap of 500 MW in 2008. However, since the Korean government changed its successful feed-in tariff system in 2008, the Korean solar energy market has experienced a period of cooling down.

While many in the Korean solar industry are now longing for new incentives that should create new business opportunities for the future, some are suggesting tasks that need to be done by the Korean solar companies before the market runs out of steam. Kyong-Moon Chang, CFO of RENA Korea, a producer of wet chemical equipment for PV, says, Solar is more than a movement, its a rapidly growing economy on a global scale. Korean solar companies should not limit their possibilities to the domestic market. They should look outside and prepare themselves for the next big thing. I hope large companies in Korea take a giant step forward and make bold investments in PV technology development.

Changs wish for more Korean solar companies expanding into foreign markets is shared by others. Sonia Kim of KOS Ltd., a manufacturer of PV ribbons, says, There are Korean module manufacturers who are expanding their production capacity with orders from abroad. I hope to see more and more of this kind of news.

Large, high-profile Korean companies have a lot of small and medium-sized companies as suppliers and contractors. I hope large Korean companies advance into foreign markets and win big, which would clear the way for their local partners to explore foreign markets as well, states Soon-Bok Park, Deputy General Manager of MIRAE E&I, a manufacturer of module junction boxes and tracker monitoring systems.


PV Technology Innovation


Claire You from Equipment Business Department at Semi-Materials, a silicon wafer manufacturer, emphasizes the importance of technology by saying, I hope technological innovation is made. Technological development is essential to lowering product costs. We have to compete with other renewable energy resources.

According to Se-Hong Kwon, Manager of EcoPower, a solar module and lighting system provider, The current battery lifetime is very short. I hope technological breakthrough for batteries is made. For example, if a battery with 10-year lifetime will come out, it would promote solar commercialization.


Certificate Process


According to Taeck-Keun Yoo, Assistant Manager at Woori S-tech, a solar cell and module manufacturer, the certificate process for PV players is another important issue. He says, KAMCO Certificate is necessary in order to run a solar business in Korea. It takes 6 months for a company to get certified. So companies often have a financial difficulty during this period because they cant sell products without certificate.

I believe the pre-certificate sales should solve this problem. Jay Choi, Manager of Sales & Marketing Department at T V Rheinland, a certificate institute, adds, At the moment, the solar manufacturers are reluctant to get the certificate. It is necessary for solar companies to get involved in the certificate process with full understanding.


Different Points of View


Jin-Fu Yuan, President of Korea Branch at Shinew, a Chinese solar cell producer, expresses his satisfaction about the industry.

Im very satisfied with the current solar industry, I have nothing to ask! One is dreaming of unification. Ji-Soo Lee, Chief of Strategic Planning at KD Solar, one of the leading Korean module manufacturers, says, I hope solar associations speak with one voice. Under the unification of the organizations, the solar industry could make better decisions for the industry. Some think of grid parity. Myung-Hee Jo, CEO of GEO C&I, a GIS solution provider, says, I think Korea Electric Power Corporation plays an important role in reaching grid parity. Like in many other countries including the U.S.A. and Japan, state-running energy companies should lead the industry actively to grid parity.

According to Dong-Sun Han, Manager at SunCarrier Korea, a tracker provider, I believe the construction period for solar installations should expand. The current setting period is 2-3 months, which could result in poor construction. In addition, consistent policies will be needed for business development.

Ye-Lim Suk, Manager at T&C, a vacuum and cleaning equipment provider, wishes for strong competition among solar companies and abundant support, which will be needed for Korean companies to rise globally.

Chang-Ha Park, Team Manager of Management, Holly Wu, Marketing Director of Suntech, the worlds leading producer of crystalline silicon PV cells and modules says, Support at TM TECH, a tracking system and solar lighting system provider, says, I hope for more agencies which deal with paperwork for bureaucratic procedures because it takes complicated process for a new technology to be commercialized.

There is an opinion on balance between the solar segments. Korean solar industry tends to concentrate on solar power plants. Balance between the solar segments would be needed for the industry to be further developed. Min-Chel Lee, Customer Service Manager at 3S, a total solar product and system provider headquartered in Switzerland, comments, I hope the solar industry develop not in some certain areas, but in every area in Korea. Also, a balance between the solar segments should be realized. For example, BIPV and residential solar should be developed along with solar plants.


View from Outside


Despite the current uncertainty in the market, some leading global solar players express their optimism about the Korean solar market. Hannah, Export Manager of Orient Kingdom Solar, for whom 2010 is the first year to enter the Korean market, says, We believe Koreas solar future is bright. Thats why we decided to enter the Korean market to stand the best chance. We hope to find an exclusive distributor for our products for the Korean market. Gilbert Wen, Marketing Director of Wakom Semiconductor, is also excited about the Korean solar market, saying, Korea has outstanding strength in semiconductor and Korean players such as Samsung and LG dominate the global semiconductor market. That means Korea has the upper hand in its battle with leading solar countries such as Germany, Japan and the U.S. over control of the vast global solar market.

Centrotherm photovoltaics Koreas Min-Joo Kim views Koreas solar industry will grow fast to become the nations key industry like the mobile phone industry. Right now, Germany, Japan, China and the U.S.A. dominate the global solar market, but this will soon change. What happened in the mobile phone market can just as well be repeated in the solar market if Korea pushes the date forward to begin massive investment in solar, she says.

Leading global solar cell/module manufacturer Solarfun, one of the top 5 players in the Korean market, is hopeful about this year. We opened our branch in Korea last year and it will give a significant boost to our operations in the country. When Korea embarks on Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), we believe we will get more orders for our products and systems, says Yu Ouyang, VP & GM of Domestic PV System at Solarfun.

Meanwhile, global players voice their hopes for the global solar market this year. Holly Wu, Marketing Director of Suntech, the worlds leading producer of crystalline silicon PV cells and modules says,  We hope to see the global solar market making steady and continuous growth. People in the industry predict the German solar makret to decline in the second half, but we belive other European countries will show a healthy growth. Strong growth is expected in the U.S.A., China and India and Suntech is excited about the growth prospects because we believe we are wellpositioned to capture the opportunities arising from these markets.


Jeanny Lim is Editor-in-Chief and Sarah Jeong is Editor, both of InterPV. Send your comments to pved@infothe.com.



For more information, please send your e-mails to pved@infothe.com.

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