Chinese Solar Power Firm to Invest $10B in Malaysian Production

Ray Sherman and Hadi Azmi
Kuala Lumpur
2021-06-25
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Chinese Solar Power Firm to Invest $10B in Malaysian Production A man walks between solar panels at a solar power plant under construction in Aksu, in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, April 5, 2012.
[Reuters]

A solar power company from China has agreed to invest $10 billion in Malaysia over 15 years, as Chinese firms look to Southeast Asia to expand production and avoid “obstacles” put in by Western countries, a business leader said Friday.

Chinese firms favor doing business in Southeast Asia over countries in other corners of the globe because of synergy with Beijing’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) projects in the region, said Tan Yew Sing, president of the Malaysia-China Chamber of Commerce.

“China is keen to work in Malaysia because the United States and Western countries are putting more obstacles for China to invest there. They are looking into ASEAN countries, the Middle East, and Africa,” Tan told BenarNews, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“Of the three regions, ASEAN is still their favorite, especially because of the One Belt One Road policy,” he added.

On Thursday, the Malaysian government announced that solar power giant Risen Energy Co. Ltd, a private Chinese company, would invest 42.2 billion ringgit (U.S. $10.1 billion) from 2021 until 2035 in its first major plant in Southeast Asia. It will be located in northern Kedah state.

The Chinese firm’s investment was “timely” for Malaysia, which has been struggling to attract foreign direct investment, said Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, director of the Malaysia office of political consultancy firm Bower Group Asia.

“The federal government has been previously criticized for its failure to bring in FDI,” Asrul told BenarNews. FDI in Malaysia fell 56 percent in 2020, according to government data.

The Chinese company’s solar project investment, coming on top of Beijing’s donation of 500,000 doses of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine, will further strengthen the Sino-Malaysian relationship, he said.

Also on Thursday, the United States announced that it was halting imports from a major Chinese producer of polysilicon, Hoshine Silicon Industry Co. Ltd, over the alleged use of Uyghurs as forced laborers in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Washington also blacklisted units of three other Chinese companies, some of which are major producers of monocrystalline silicon and polysilicon used in solar-panel production.

More than 90 percent of all solar panels producing electricity need polysilicon – the purified variant of the grey silicon metal made of quartz – and four of the world’s five largest producers of polysilicon are based in China, according to Bernreuter Research, a German research firm.

Statements by Malaysia’s prime minister and the minister of International Trade and Industry did not say from where Risen Energy’s Malaysian factory would get polysilicon. But they said the Chinese company would manufacture solar – or photovoltaic – cells and solar panels under its Malaysian subsidiary, Risen Solar Technology Sdn Bhd.

BenarNews contacted the Prime Minister’s Office for details but it did not immediately respond, while the Ministry of International Trade referred the news service to a public statement on the investment.

Six other solar power companies are operational in Malaysia, three of which are Chinese.

‘Malaysia has abundant raw materials’

Meanwhile, a trade ministry source, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, told BenarNews that construction on Risen Energy’s Malaysian facility had begun.

Construction of the new facility is scheduled to be completed by year’s end and become operational by the first quarter of 2022, said a statement from Mohamed Azmin Ali, the minister of International Trade and Industry.

The facility is expected to have an annual production capacity of three gigawatts (3GW) of high-efficiency photovoltaic (solar) modules for the first five years “to meet growing global demand,” Azmin said. It is also expected to create 3,000 jobs over 15 years.

Azmin’s office told BenarNews that technical experts from China would be brought into Malaysia for training purposes, once the facility is ready.

Xie Jian, chairman and president of Risen Energy Co. Ltd., said the firm chose Malaysia because of its strategic location in Southeast Asia.

“Further, Malaysia has abundant raw materials, [a] high quality of human resources, and harmonious ethnic relations whereby people get along well,” the statement from the trade ministry quoted him as saying.

Noah Lee in Kuala Lumpur also contributed to this report.

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