TÜV SÜD Korea’s VIP Customer Interview Series- #02. Korea Ratings
Do you know what a ‘Feasibility Study’ is?
‘A Feasibility Study’ is an analysis and evaluation of a proposed project to determine if it is technically reasonable, feasible within the estimated cost, and will be profitable. It is usually conducted in the pre-construction phase, aiming to reduce unnecessary financial and personnel loss beforehand. Through assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a proposed investment, the opportunities and potential challenges of the environment, and all the resources required, the chances of success will be made more explicit. Therefore, it is crucial that this be done by experts who have an objective and technically accurate point of view.
Today's interviewee is Mr. Yong Cheul Shin from Korea Ratings. Established in 1983, Korea Ratings is a leading company that provides credit rating services for securities including bond, ABS, and CP, as well as conducting comprehensive feasibility studies. Commanding 80% of the market share in Korea’s energy and infrastructure business feasibility studies, Korea Ratings has been involved in various significant domestic wind energy projects on Jeju Island and in the Taebaek area, as well as overseas solar energy projects in Japan, Italy, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Romania.
Q. Hello, Mr. Shin. It is an honor and a pleasure to have you here with us for TÜV SÜD Korea’s VIP customer interview series! Could you briefly introduce yourself?
I am Shin Yong Cheul, Director of Energy and Infrastructure at Korea Ratings. My team is mainly responsible for providing the feasibility studies and consults which are required when a local or overseas energy project owner applies for a loan from a financial institution. I've been working at Korea Ratings for twenty years, and I currently have twenty staff members on my team.
Q. What is an essential part of your job?
We coordinate with a client and an investor to reach agreements through negotiation. Thus, maintaining impartiality through support from accurate data and forecasts is crucial. We need a business culture that allows us to tell clients: "It's not going to work"-- when the situation calls for it. I believe the reason why I've been working here for so long is that Korea Ratings and I share the same business philosophy.
Q. That business philosophy seems to have contributed to everything that you've achieved so far. Could you tell us what exactly it is that you do in collaboration with TÜV SÜD Korea?
We are mostly working with TÜV SÜD Korea to study the feasibility of solar energy projects. For example, suppose that a company wants to apply for a loan from a financial institution for its photovoltaic energy project. The financial institution comes to us, and we issue a ‘bankability report’ to support their loan approval process. TÜV SÜD Korea also contributes to the decision-making process by providing us with a ‘technical report’ from their technical assessment.
TÜV SÜD provides verification of a location’s suitability, identifies critical site-specific aspects, and creates simulations of energy yields based on site location and specific technologies. Since 2013, we have cooperated on about 25 projects, including the single largest Japanese PV project acquisition in Korea, ‘the Yamaguchi’s 50MW project’.
Q. That is impressive! Now, could you tell us about how this partnership with TÜV SÜD Korea began, and what has made it last for such a long time?
It has already been seven years since I met Hee-Chul Won, Director of technical assessment for PV plants at TÜV SÜD Korea, by chance and started working with him. Whenever I collaborate with him, I feel a strong sense of team spirit even though we belong to different companies.
As reliability is crucial for our job, we are obligated to maintain our objectivity based on factual evidence so that we don’t compromise when we face unreasonable demands from project owners. In addition to being an expert in his field, Hee-Chul shares these values, which align with my company’s and my personal values. I believe similarity has enabled our relationship to remain strong over the past seven years.
However, I am not the only one who feels this way about working with Hee-Chul. The rest of my staff recognize him as a trustworthy partner and feel comfortable working with him. He makes time to train us when technical knowledge regarding solar power generation is required. He always goes above and beyond to offer more than just the basics. Even if when he has been away on a business trip and we were in urgent need of his assistance, he has always been responsive. My team and I need someone who shares the same values and attitudes toward clients and projects. I know I can rely on him 100%.
Q. We can see that you and Hee-Chul have a very trusting relationship. Can you think of any particularly rewarding or memorable experiences with Hee-Chul that you'd like to share with us?
Hee-Chul and I worked together on a Romanian PV project, for which an investor requested ‘due diligence’ from us. We were to do an on-site investigation based on their previous report to determine whether the project was even real. During our ten-day business trip, Hee-Chul and I traveled all day visiting eight different power plants in Romania and meeting in person with those in charge to identify issues. It was not only physically challenging for us to visit eight different sites by car within a short period, but also exhausting since Romania was new to us and it was difficult to understand the situation in English and cope with unexpected variables. I think sharing those difficult times and experiences has strengthened our relationship.
Picture: (From left) Mr. Yong-cheul Shin, Mr. Sin-yong Kim from Korea Ratings, Mr. Hee-chul Won from TÜV SÜD Korea
Q. Thanks for sharing. Before wrapping up the interview, we have one final question. What does Hee-Chul mean to you?
As long as Korea Ratings continues to provide feasibility studies for solar power generation projects, he will be my partner!