“Everyone deserves the right to affordable energy. We hope to play our bit in providing solar power to the hard-core poor communities of rural Malaysia”, Ken Ong said when asked what his vision was for the future of renewable energy and sustainability. But it didn’t stop there. He believed that clean energy should be affordable and made available to those that need it most.
Ken Ong’s venture into greener living was by chance. He began his career in the manufacturing sector and was one of those responsible for the listing of Vintage Tiles Industries Sdn Bhd on Bursa Malaysia. As an Executive Director, Ken Ong expanded the company overseas. But with the urge to make the world a better place to live in, this wasn’t enough for him. Through a childhood friend, he realised he could do more than manufacture tiles. A trip to China changed everything. He began to realise that the sun not only brightens up the day but could also light up lives. From there, he established a company dealing with solar energy named Helios Aethon. With the participation of a few close friends who were appointed as directors, Ken Ong made his move in securing projects related to solar energy from the government, corporate and private sectors. That is how the journey of Ken Ong in the solar industry began.
Born on June 11, 1975 in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, Ken Ong developed a competitive edge at an early age. From the tender age of 9 years, he had already shown interest in trading and creative thinking. Fast forward 10 years, Ken graduated with a Business Degree from the University of Technology Sydney in Australia. Being the only child, he got almost everything he wanted. But with an organized and strict upbringing, he learnt the meaning of value and the appreciation of others. This made Ken Ong the man he is today. A highly visionary personality, organized in almost every part of his routines. And with his heart of kindness, he cares about everyone that revolves around his life.
Realizing that he needed to move forward to achieve his dream, Ken Ong established another company, Helios Photovoltaic Sdn Bhd. Within five years, he had grown Helios into a group of companies. “We are making the transition from being an entrepreneurial-led company into a modern corporation with a strong focus on governance”, said Ong with a smile on his face.
Incorporated in 2010 in Malaysia, Helios Photovoltaic started as an EPC (Engineering, Procurement & Construction) company for smaller solar power systems. But Ong’s passion for providing affordable alternative energy and upholding global environmental standards within Malaysia saw him collaborating with various government agencies and a local university, allowing him to expand his services. Since 2010, he has undertaken a rural electrification project to build solar systems for off-grid villages in the remote regions of Sarawak, East Malaysia. “It’s not the quantity of projects. It’s the quality of them. We ensure every project we pursue is completed on time, with the highest quality and within budget”, said Ken Ong passionately.
The Rural Electrification Project in Sarawak is part of the government’s response to assist the affected communities. Helios Photovoltaic was awarded a project under this scheme which consists of 5 phases spanning over 8 years to provide solar power to identified villages. Phase I, comprising 3 villages (285 households) and 3 schools, kicked off in 2013 and was completed in October 2015. These were in Metah, Janan and Tunoh. Ong pointed out that these areas were so remote that it took them at least 3 hours by boat through crocodile-infested rivers to reach from the nearest towns.
What Helios Photovoltaic did was build and design 3 separate micro-grid hybrid systems of solar arrays with battery storage and backup diesel generators, providing up to 1.635MW in total electricity. The smooth implementation of Phase I was so successful and swift that during the last state election in Sarawak, solar energy was one of the top demands by rural constituencies. Immediately after the May 2016 state elections, the government allocated a bigger budget to increase the scale of rural electrification in the state via solar power. “The 10 off-grid villages are now able to enjoy improved living conditions and increase their economic production, income and education. We have already started work on the other phases and can’t wait to put the plans in motion”.
But it wasn’t always easy for Helios Photovoltaic. “We are also trying to raise awareness on renewable energy and sustainability across the industry and in the wider world”, remarked Ong. Helios Photovoltaic is a member of the Malaysia Photovoltaic Industries Association (MPIA). “Together, we’re improving our awareness of cutting edge developments as well as increasing the level of the playing field in the industry.” They also work closely with government bodies to set the framework for solar energy in terms of policy development, continuous improvement in policy agenda, and trend-setting to accommodate the fast changing environment in the industry.
And lastly, Ken Ong has bought over a factory for a Solar R&D Centre which they are equipping with state-of-the-art equipment. “With this centre, we hope to demonstrate the benefits of solar energy to other industries like property, infrastructure, offshore oil and gas, and many more”, said Ken Ong. This facility is under construction and should be up and running by the first half of 2017. It aims to collaborate with international testing bodies, utility companies and universities from Malaysia, Southeast Asia and Europe, to further invigorate academic interest and research and development for renewable energy regionally and globally.
Beyond Malaysia, Helios Photovoltaic is also sharing its experiences with governments or industry players in other ASEAN countries. The company has an arm in Singapore, catering mostly for on-grid solar systems. The company is also planning to tap the market in Timor-Leste, Vietnam, and Myanmar.
On a final note, Ken Ong had this to say, “In a world where most depend on energy sources that endanger our lives and our planet, Helios Photovoltaic hopes to provide safe, economical and responsible energy. In a world where many are still disempowered by energy power, Helios Photovoltaic hopes to power their future. In a world where business interests often triumph over environmental concerns, Helios Photovoltaic hopes to make a difference.”