How a Solar Entrepreneur in Thailand Built an Industry with Blended Climate Finance

Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Asia, Entrepreneurship, Tech

5757136469_bfecb94b5cWandee Khunchornyakong, a former solar panel manufacturing executive and founder of the Solar Power Company Group (SPCG) in Thailand, has won recognition from the United Nation’s Climate Change secretariat with the prestigious “Momentum for Change – Women for Results” award. A 25-member international advisory panel selected Wandee as one of three winners this year in the Women for Results category. The Momentum for Change platform is implemented through support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and other partners.

Barely six years ago, Thailand’s solar power market, was at a standstill with solar energy accounting for less than 2 MW of installed capacity. In 2014, the country is on the edge of solar energy transformation as private companies have committed $2 billion in solar investments over the next five years. The woman entrepreneur spearheading this transformation is Wandee, who runs SPCG, the largest solar power generation company in Thailand.

SPCG has unlocked private financing to build 36 solar farms accounting for 250 MW of installed capacity by the end of 2014. Wandee had a vision to reduce Thailand’s dependence on imported power, and she believed she could spur economic growth in one of the country’s most impoverished regions at the same time by building utility-scale solar farms.

The government was supportive of Wandee’s plans, but there was one missing piece: financing. Wandee required the backing of investors to fund her plans for large-scale solar PV plants, but investors were reluctant to put their money in a largely unproven market. This is when World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) stepped in to provide the financing for SPCG’s two pilot projects of about 20 MW.

To help sustain the momentum, IFC provided an $8 million loan “blended” with $4 million in concessional financing from the Clean Technology Fund (CTF). This blended financing enabled SPCG to mobilize enough capital from three local banks and also gave the investors more confidence. Within the next few years, Wandee and SPCG were able to attract more than $800 million in investment and have delivered 250MW of solar PV capacity in Thailand. This new generation capacity is the carbon equivalent of taking more than 40,000 cars off the road each year.

Kruskaia Sierra-Escalante, head of Blended Climate Finance at IFC, said thatBlended Climate Finance is one of the tools that IFC has available to help pave the way for these types of transformational projects to catalyze climate-smart, private sector investments. The organization is proud to work with Wandee in support of her vision, and is convinced that helping visionary entrepreneurs like her through blended finance investments can help unlock markets.

Wandee’s pioneering success with the catalytic support of IFC’s Blended Climate Finance tool has made the Thai solar PV market as one of the most attractive among the world’s emerging economies. She believes that her experience in Thailand can be replicated in other countries to achieve similar energy transformations.

Source: World Bank

Image Credit: Flickr via mcmees24

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