American house with solar panels installed in the roof [Source: Wikimedia Commons User Gray Watson]

South Korean Company Invests in California-Based Solar Energy Business


SK E&S, a major global energy company based in South Korea, recently set up a joint venture with Sunrun Inc., a Californian company that provides residential solar solutions for people all around the United States. Sunrun may have been founded just 13 years ago in San Francisco, but the up-and-coming business has already built $3 billion in installed solar systems across 22 states and the District of Columbia, and just last year, they acquired another solar energy company, Vivint Solar, for $3.2 billion.

The investment from SK E&S, which totals $115.8 million, signals a larger trend of the energy industry moving towards more renewable sources. About the deal, Senior Vice President of the Energy Solution Group at SK E&S Daejin Choi said, “We have been and will continue to be an active player in the Energy Solutions field. We believe our partnership with Sunrun can help provide a cleaner, smarter, brighter energy solution service to end-users.” With this joint venture, Sunrun plans to target the domestic market in the short term, bringing solar energy to more Americans, but they also intend to expand internationally as well, enabling a smarter energy system for people around the globe.

This joint venture is not the only investment SK E&S has made in the United States. Just last year, they set up a virtual power plant named Electrodes Holdings in California in partnership with a Swiss fund manager. The continued investment made by the South Korean conglomerate shows that they see promise in the US solar market and are committed to funding cleaner energy in the present and the future. More broadly, South Korean investment in California totals $2.3 billion since 2003, and this investment has created almost 8,000 jobs. The connection between the two has been strong for decades and looks to get even stronger heading into the new decade with SK E&S’ new joint venture with Sunrun.

Andy Eller is a research intern in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center. He is currently a fourth year student at the University of Chicago studying law, letters, and society, and minoring in East Asian Languages and Civilizations.