The new president of Huawei’s Smart PV Business Unit, Chen Guoguang, talks to pv magazine about his new role in the company and the future of his division. Increased investment in smart PV R&D and technological innovation are at the top of the agenda. The intelligentization of energy products is also a priority, with much to be gained from the integration of information and communications technologies (ICT) and energy.
You recently took over as the new president of Huawei’s Smart PV Business Unit. How does your experience lend well to the new function?
I have accumulated nearly 12 years’ experience in global research and development and seven years’ experience in international sales and management roles in Huawei’s Smart PV Business, which has provided me with a profound knowledge and understanding of both industry challenges and customer needs. Now, my team and I are working tirelessly to develop the industry-leading products and solutions which will provide the best possible value for customers all over the world.
Is there a new path that you plan to take the Smart PV Business Unit down?
The development of the smart PV business involves three aspects. First, we will continue to increase investment in smart PV research and development. Second, we will expand Huawei smart PV’s global market presence, which involves establishing sales and service teams in more countries and regions to offer customers with better services. Finally, we will comprehensively integrate our leading ICT technologies – such as 5G, AI, and the cloud – which have developed rapidly over the last two years, with solar and storage. Our vision, which echoes the purpose of Smart PV For Future, is to expand the application of PV energy with innovative technologies and make smart PV accessible to all, while contributing to building a world that is both green and safe.
Leveraging the telecommunications business to solar is a clear advantage of Huawei’s capabilities in the market.
It is the integration of ICT technologies and energy that differentiates Huawei from its competitors. We utilize digital technologies to connect energy products, enable preventative maintenance, and realize the intelligentization of energy products. The application of digital technologies to the energy industry enriches traditional dumb devices with intelligent capabilities, enhancing industry efficiency and delivering an optimized user experience. Huawei’s PV business has evolved from digital PV to internet-powered PV, and now to AI-powered PV. The Huawei smart PV business unit has advanced communications technologies and huge investment in R&D.
Huawei recently predicted 10 trends for smart PV development in the next five years, which has sparked heated discussion in the industry. How do you interpret these trends and their impact on the industry?
We mapped out these trends after holding an in-depth discussion with global industry experts, consulting firms, as well as upstream and downstream partners of the industry chain from four dimensions: digitalization and intelligentization, grid friendliness, lower LCOE, and security and trustworthiness. The 10 trends specifically involve digitalization, AI-driven smart upgrades, unmanned PV plants, proactive support for power grids, solar+storage, virtual power plants (VPPs), upgraded safety, higher power density, modular design, and security and trustworthiness.
I believe that the 10 trends can guide the entire new energy industry by providing a reference for innovation and growth. However, the intelligent world is arriving faster than we anticipated. I think these trends will become realities well before 2025. Some trends are already occurring, such as solar+storage, AI-powered PV, and VPPs.
The trends are mainly related to intelligentization, digitalization, and cloudification – which are inevitable concepts in the industry. Today, an increasing number of innovations are driven by digital technologies – 5G, the cloud, AI, and other technologies are key to innovation and are accelerating the digital transformation of various industries. More importantly, these technologies are integrating with each other and bringing unprecedented revolutionary changes. Everything will be connected online, everything will be connected to the cloud, and AI applications will be ubiquitous – thereby reshaping everything we know today.
How do you think industry players will remain competitive as we advance into the next era of digitalization at such a fast rate?
In this innovation-driven ecosystem, success will only be achieved by game-changers who propose new ideas, create new business models, and launch new products and services. Seven years ago, we promoted the smart PV solution with string inverters as the core. Facing significant challenges, we achieved an unprecedented performance, which entailed both courage and modesty, by firmly believing that innovations bring success. Today, we stand at the entrance to the intelligent world, where we expect another turning point. We will closely collaborate with partners to achieve further success.
You mentioned solar+storage. This is definitely stepping up as the new solution in the energy transition. How is Huawei adapting its business model accordingly?
In residential scenarios, the general LCOE of the solar+storage solution is more competitive than that of traditional power solutions due to the development and decreasing costs of PV and energy storage technologies. In areas with high feed-in tariffs, such as Germany, Japan, and Australia, the LCOE of solar+storage is even lower than the residential feed-in tariffs, allowing a new business model to be established. In the second half of 2020, Huawei will launch the distributed household solar+storage solution to help people in these areas improve the use of green and low-cost energy.
For large-scale plants, Huawei believes that the solar+storage solution will be mainly applied for the improvement of power grids. New energy is not completely stable in terms of power generation, and the stability issue will become more serious with the increasing application of new energy to power grids. For example, the power grid’s requirements for frequency modulation and peak adjustment will become more intense. The solar+storage solution can address these problems, and it will be an inevitable trend of PV development in the future. Currently, markets are first being established in places where a stable power system is in more urgent need, such as Australia and the United States. In the future, this requirement will become universal.
Is Huawei leveraging its other business units to support the advancement of storage for the PV business?
Huawei has extensive experience in lead-acid and lithium battery system applications in the fields of telecom site energy, data center facilities, and terminal power supply. It also has abundant technical experience in efficient energy storage system architecture, high-performance bare metal server (BMS), electrochemical cell system safety, and intelligent diagnosis and analysis. Based on these platform technologies and experience in the PV field, Huawei is committed to building leading solar+storage solutions with optimal LCOE and levelized cost of storage (LCOS), optimal security, and simplified O&M.
Climate change is a growing global concern, and while the PV industry plays an active role in the energy transition, there are challenges surrounding manufacturing and waste processes. How is Huawei developing its products with environmental concerns in mind?
Energy conservation and emission reductions have long been an integrated part of Huawei’s product life cycle. For example, we quantitatively evaluate the environmental impact of products in different phases, such as raw material extraction, production, transportation, use, and recycling, to identify product deficiency against environmental protection. In terms of innovation in environmental protection, the focus is on improving the energy and material efficiency of products.
We also innovate in manufacturing processes, packaging, transportation, and recycling, in order to promote environmental protection across ICT product lifecycles. For packaging, we adopt lightweight, green packaging. We also designed recyclable metal pallets to replace wooden ones, and we use strong paper boxes instead of wooden ones. This reduces wood usage and carbon emissions. Huawei is committed to minimizing its environmental impact during production, operation, and the product and service life cycles.