Could you please introduce yourself and tell us some more about your personal background?
My name is Shi Zhenrong, born at the bank of Yangtze River in Jiangsu province, China. I have been engaged in study and research on photovoltaic technologies since my university time. In 1992 I got a Ph.D in photovoltaic science from New South Wales University, Australia. I went back to China at the end of 2000 and founded the Suntech in 2001, with a vision of building up PV Industry in order to reduce the dependency on fossil energy and benefit the whole world.
Please introduce your company, tell us briefly about its history, main activities and key products.
Suntech was founded in February 2001 in Wuxi, Jiangsu province in China. Our main activities cover R&D, production, sales and marketing photovoltaic cells, modules and components. We have won customers around the world with world-class quality products which are certified by international quality institutions such as UL, TUEV, IEC…. Today, Suntech is ranked as world No.4 solar cell manufacture in the PV market with a good reputation for high quality and punctual customer service.
What are the ambitions of your company for the coming 3 years in terms of markets and volumes?
We will continue our efforts on R&D, productivity and marketing in order to provide products with the best performance and price ratio to our customers. We plan to increase our production capacity to 600MW by 2008. I hope that PV industries will be united and create a larger stage for solar energy, through which our earth would be greener and our life would be better.
What is your opinion about the current PV market situation in your country?
Due to the pressure of fossil fuel shortages and global climate change, more and more attention turns to renewable energy. The potential demand is huge. However, as in many other countries in Europe, PV market development depends very much on the government incentive policies initially.
If you were looking for international cooperation, which kinds of business partners would you be specially interested in?
We are looking for any kind of cooperation or partnership which can enhance our R&D ability, product efficiency, quality and product portfolio in order to service our customers better. For example, we recently acquired Japanese company MSK which is well established in BIPV market in Japan as well as in the world.
Which issues or developments are you specially interested in?
We are very concerned about global warming issues. We will try our best to expand market penetration of solar energy, to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels that cause carbon dioxide emission. We are interested in all technologies which can help to improve the performance and cost of solar modules so as to enable solar energy to become more affordable for people in the world.
What will help your company grow even faster?
I think that there are many factors which can accelerate our business, such as increased awareness of global warming, favourable government policies, technological development and improvement of the whole PV value chain, etc. All these factors are inter-related and move PV industry forward.
What market development has surprised you the most in recent years?
The speed of market development. It is estimated that the growth rate will remain in double figures from now to 2016. The speed of technological advances, for example thin film technology.
What do you see as the major challenges in the PV market?
I do not see any difference between domestic PV markets and those overseas. Therefore the PV industry faces the same challenges everywhere , that is local government support, production scale, innovation capabilities and raw materials availability, etc.
What do you consider as the biggest failures or mistakes made in the solar industry?
With the trend for consolidation of the PV industry plus the rapid technology advances, prices for modules and components will come down in the future. That will help market expansion for the PV industry and will make solar energy more affordable for people. I am very positive about such change.
What are your expectations for the global PV market in the next 5 years?
Because of the fast growth rate of PV market, many new players are attracted to the PV industry, which may cause a severe price war. There is also a tendency for some state governments to launch more protective measures to protect their own PV industry. That development may not be constructive for the healthy growth of the PV industry. I believe that transparent and fair competition can promote the healthy development of the PV industry that will benefit more people and the world.
What do you consider to be winning companies and technologies for the future?
Again, technology development including the application technologies is very crucial to innovation in industry. I believe innovation is one of the key drivers in the PV industry. Innovation not only in technology, but also in business modelling. I will keep on watching those kinds of developments very closely.
Thank you for the interview.