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An In-Depth Interview with JinkoSolar’s CSO & Head of Emerging Markets: Arturo Herrero


20 Feb. 2015 by

JinkoSolar’s Arturo Herrero is a key player within the solar industry, serving as the current Chief Strategy Officer and Head of Emerging Markets at JinkoSolar, which is currently the 3rd largest solar module manufacturer in the world. Having brought two Chinese solar module manufacturers onto the New York Stock Exchange in less than a decade, Trina Solar in 2006 and JinkoSolar in 2010, Mr. Herrero shares his insight about the future of the markets, as an expert in the field. In this exclusive interview, Mr. Herrero discusses where the emerging markets, such as Mexico and Latin America are headed, changes we can expect to see in 2015, up and coming solar trends such as the need for solar storage so that energy may run 24 hours/day, the reasons behind the European market’s struggle to stay afloat in this new and expanding era of solar, and much more.


 

 

 


Solar Background:
Arturo Herrero’s first major role in the solar industry began in January 2000 with Castrol based in Barcelona, where he was the Sales and Marketing Manager. This soon evolved when BP Oil acquired Castrol and promoted Mr. Herrero to the Global Procurement Manager at BP Solar, within the Group, where he was then based in Madrid. After five years, Mr. Herrero was then approached by investors (Merrill Lynch and Good Energies) to move across the world from Madrid to Shanghai to become the Vice President of Sales and Marketing with Trina Solar. At Trina Solar, he would go on to establish an all International Commercial structure, and assist the company to become listed on Wall Street. At the time, Trina Solar was just getting its bearings and entering the competitive world of solar. After spending another five years working to secure Trina’s position at the top of the list, Mr. Herrero was again approached to make another career move- this time to one of Trina’s competitors- JinkoSolar where he currently works as the CSO and Head of Emerging Markets since March 2010, when Credit Suisse ask for his contribution to help JinkoSolar to be listed in Wall Street.

 


“Both companies have met with success thanks to the teams we recruited within the companies, the wise strategies in place, and the strong leadership based on team building and result oriented motivation.”

ASM : What achievement in your solar career has made you the most proud and why?
AH : The most important achievement, aside from helping Trina Solar and JinkoSolar to become listed and internationally recognized, has been the growth of the Sales and Commercial platform, as well as the Sales, Marketing and BD, in both companies. I have been with both companies for five years each. Jinko was in the 17th position for the list of companies making solar modules when I began and has since become number 3 in the PV Manufacturers list. The revenues and achievements have multiplied ten times, and now Trina has also become Top 1 module manufacturer in the world. Both companies have achieved great success thanks to the teams we recruited within the companies, the wise strategies in place, and the strong leadership based on team building and result oriented motivation.


“The market outside of Europe has been important to diversify the risk and have more potential growth.”

ASM : What do you see as the biggest opportunities for the PV industry within Jinko Solar?
AH : At present, the market has switched from European demand to demand outside of Europe. The global market has become much more important, so now the challenge is to keep growing in Europe because there are a lot of difficulties in terms of subsidies from the governments and constraints to products produced in China.  We focused our efforts on the UK, where still subsidies and demand have been strong during last year. At the same time, we have been very successful entering promising PV markets worldwide thanks to our Localization Strategy, opening 18 offices outside of China.
In 2014 we were very successful in South Africa and Chile, for example, but also in China, USA and Japan. The market outside of Europe has been important to diversify the risk and have more potential growth. We [JinkoSolar] were one of the pioneer companies looking at entering other countries, so it was important to analyze the industry moves and to be there moving ahead our competitors, as a first mover in Emerging countries.

 



“JinkoSolar was the first company among its competitors to launch PID (Potential Induced Degradation) free panels that can last 25 years with lower degradation, without impacting power performance, even at 85°C or at 85% humidity.”

ASM : Which development has surprised you most in the past 5 years? And what do you think will surprise us in the coming years?
AH : The shift from Europe to other emerging markets has been quite surprising. Also, there has become a need to modify the product to be much more durable and resistant to conditions and environments that are technically much more harsh. The product needs to support 25 years under very harsh conditions, such as in South Africa or Chile, where temperatures can get up to 60 degrees°C on the level of the panel. Or humidity, like in Brazil, can be over 90% humidity during parts of the year. The technology of the product has improved a lot in this sense.

JinkoSolar was the first company among its competitors to launch PID (Potential Induced Degradation) free panels that can last 25 years with lower degradation, without impacting power performance, even at 85°C or at 85% humidity. They can exist for quite a long time without really losing electricity production. The most important part is to make sure the return on investment of the projects from our customers is not impacted. They can get the same return on investments as they would get in normal conditions, such as in more mild European weather conditions. This will be required in the future when these countries are more interactive and investing a lot in solar energy production.

ASM : What do you see as the most important emerging markets and what, according to you, are major drivers and trends in these new and emerging markets?
AH : China definitely is becoming one of the biggest markets, though it isn’t necessarily an emerging market, however it is important for us because of the support from the market in terms of incentives and Feed-in-tariff that are available in China. We have invested time and energy into Japan and India to date, and they will become more important players for us in 2015 and 2016. We expect the market to be booming in the coming years. The countries have big targets for reductions of CO2 and are pushing for renewable energy, so solar will be an important target for them to reach in terms of demand. Other emerging markets important for Jinko would be Mexico, South Africa, where we have 40% of the market share in South Africa and expect to be a leader once again in the South African market in the next one to two years, and finally, Central America, with Chile becoming the most rapidly growing market in terms of revenues for JinkoSolar in 2015.

 



“We expect the market will be huge in Mexico because there are fundamentally three main reasons for the success of solar.”

ASM : Looking at one of the major emerging markets; Mexico. How has the Mexican PV market over the last few years changed, and what can we expect to see in 2015?
AH :  Mexico was one of the most interesting markets with the highest potential compared to the rest of the countries in Latin America. However, it has been frozen in 2014 due to the changes in regulation and the modification of the main routes of energy policy. We expect the market will be huge in Mexico starting in 2015 because there are fundamentally three main reasons for the success of solar there. The first is that energy is scarce and the population is large and growing rapidly. They need more energy resources to meet the demand. The second is that Mexico is one of the countries with the highest solar irradiance and very few days of rain, so it has higher production of energy. The third reason is the price of electricity is quite high during the peak hours, mainly in the big cities, which makes solar quite competitive with the conventional sources of energy.

“[...] we are really focusing in understanding how the hybrid projects work, how we can combine solar with diesel generation, and how we can substitute such a huge demand for diesel since it is very expensive.”

ASM : Since Jinko Solar specializes in grid connected projects, do you think there will be a segment in the off-grid/stand alone market, such as solar/diesel in Africa, where Jinko will focus in the next year?
AH : We are still somewhat far from this, but we are really focusing in understanding how the hybrid projects work, how we can combine solar with diesel generation, and how we can substitute such a huge demand for diesel since it is very expensive. Only in South America are they utilizing around 3GWs of diesel requirement per year, so there is a huge market for combining solar and diesel, or combining diesel with other sources of energy, like wind, as well as to start to review the costs of this production. Both Africa and Latin America use a lot of diesel in off grid or mini grid generation, but also both areas have a high concentration of mines. Mines need a large amount of energy for production, which means that they must use large quantities of diesel to meet their production standards. Solar will be the next change in these areas.

 



"Batteries are becoming more and more efficient so we expect a lot of improvement in the area of storage in order to be sure that we can deliver energy for a complete 24 hours when there is no sun."

 


ASM : What is the most important topic under discussion in the PV market right now, in your opinion?
AH : There are two topics: the first is storage. Batteries are becoming more and more efficient, so we expect a lot of improvement in the area of storage in order to be sure that we can deliver energy for a complete 24 hours when there is no sun. Once they become more efficient and cost effective while running on maximum power, it would be a very good solution, albeit challenging at present, for the industry to rely on solar not only for 6-8 hours in the day, but also in the night.The political issue is the second topic. The United States and Europe are suffering from taxes that are imposed on the importation of panels that are coming from China. To circumvent this issue, we want to produce locally. We have factories in South Africa, and also in Portugal for the European market. However, our next move will be to have local production sites in Malaysia and in Mexico, or in the U.S.A in the future.

“However, the solar market will be very successful in the future, I really believe in it and am very optimistic.”

ASM : What is the best advice you would give to solar entrepreneurs?
AH : I would tell them not to enter into solar! [laughs] It’s a hard and still immature industry with a lot of shaking and difficulties. These current entrepreneurs will have to dedicate most of their lives to the industry going forward. Profits were constrained, so it is was not the best market to enter during the last 3 years. However, the solar market will be very successful in the future, I really believe in it and am very optimistic. So even if it is now a difficult market, if they are patient enough and can survive the next year, the potential to become very successful and the growth and profit for the survivals should be there.

ASM : My last question, for something a bit silly, as someone who has traveled extensively, what is your preferred airline to travel with and what is your favorite travel destination?
AH : That’s OK, I like silly questions to reduce the stressed situation of this industry! I would say I am becoming more fond of Lufthansa. I fly a lot as well with Air France. The quality and service is quite good, but also I am collecting airline miles! [laughs] Miles are always good so I can invite my parents to come to visit me in Shanghai every year. As far as destination goes, the good thing about solar is that we are in countries where normally the sun is shining, and this is something I like about my job. Countries like Mexico and South Africa, for example, have beautiful tourist attractions but also are quite motivating for business, because you can enjoy the nice weather and a good environment, as well as the business aspect.




Final Remarks from Arturo Herrero Regarding his Experience with Solarplaza


After briefly discussing the nature of JinkoSolar’s relationship with Solarplaza over the years, Mr. Herrero was quite open in sharing his enthusiasm for working with Solarplaza going forward. According to Mr. Herrero,

“Solarplaza has been really helpful in establishing connections in all these local markets that are becoming more important for JinkoSolar in the future. Thanks to Solarplaza’s trade missions and conferences, we manage to get in only one week a lot of dedication, valid information and most importantly, a lot of contacts that have been very helpful to be successful in these countries where we are entering. At the same time, at Solarplaza conferences where we are asked to speak, it is a very good way to promote our brand, teach the market more about JinkoSolar and at the end of the day we are getting customers thanks to that and our partnership with Solarplaza.”