Egat chief looks to start of coal-fired power plant in Dawei by year-end

Economy June 19, 2013 00:00

By Watchara Ponsayanawin
The Nat

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The governor of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand yesterday said he hoped plans for the Dawei power-generation plant, which had been submitted to the Myanmar government, would be approved in time for construction of the 1,800-megawatt coal-



Sutat Patmasiriwat said the Thai government had submitted the plans for the power plant to the Myanmar government, which had previously approved the project in principle. 
The Bt100-billion project will be split into three phases, each of 600MW. However, should the demand for power prove to be particularly high, the investment could be undertaken in a single outlay. 
The expected construction period for the power plant is five years, with four years needed to lay power transmission cables.
The coal-fired power plant is expected to keep electricity costs reasonable.
If the plans are approved by the Myanmar authorities, the Dawei power-plant project will be a joint venture between Egat and one or more private-sector partners. 
However, Myanmar’s terms and conditions on investment and the tax privileges to be granted to the Thai government must be taken into consideration to create confidence for potential investors in the project. 
Thailand, which would be the sole investor in the power-transmission system, would be able to transmit electricity via the power transmission line to Dawei should Dawei have a power blackout. 
The government expects to receive an answer from Myanmar by the end of the year on whether a power-transmission cable system can be constructed. 
 
Reduced reliance on natural gas
Meanwhile, Sutat, whose term expires on July 31, has suggested that his successor maintain the cost of electricity generation in Thailand at no more than B4 per unit for the next 10 years by reducing the proportion of natural-gas-driven power plants to 40 per cent from the current 70 per cent, and increasing the ratio of coal-fired power plants from 20 to 30 per cent and hydro/recycled-energy-operated power plants from 10 to 20 per cent. 
The current B3.75 per unit cost of generating electricity would be lower had the government adopted for less reliance on the use of natural gas to operate power plants, he added.
The Kingdom should take advantage of the relatively close proximity to Indonesia and Australia, which have abundant supplies of coal, to support the country’s development of coal-fired power plants, he said. 
The government should also study nuclear power as another viable option for the future, while educating the public in a bid to alleviate their concerns about nuclear power-plant location and safety measures, the governor added.
While overall power supply should be adequate to meet demand for the next five years, Thailand must develop other alternative sources of power to meet the rising needs of the country and maintain the cost of electricity at an affordable level relative to neighbouring countries, he stressed. 
Too much reliance on power purchased from neighbouring states exposes the country to the risk of a possible power shortage in the future, he said, adding that the next Egat governor must come up with effective short- and long-term plans to create a proper mix between adequate power supply and an affordable cost. 
In addition, his successor should play a vital role in supporting companies affiliated to Egat to expand their power-generation business abroad in order to earn revenue and a profit for Thailand. 
He cited the case of Laos, where Thailand has acquired a hydro-electric power plant that helps Thais to obtain relatively low-cost electricity, while Laos also benefits from the technical expertise of Egat and its neighbour. 
With government support, Egat and its affiliates can expand their business overseas, Sutat said.
Meanwhile, Thailand and Myanmar on Monday signed a deal to set up a special purpose vehicle to facilitate the overall Dawei project’s development, and to establish Dawei SEZ Development Co. 
The Thai and Myanmar governments each hold 50 per cent in both entities. It is hoped that other countries, especially Japan, can be persuaded to take part in the SPV.
PM’s Office Minister Nivatthamrong Boonsongpaisal recently said some countries were expected to join in soon.