Egat, industries tackle looming power shortfall

Economy March 09, 2013 00:00

By Nophakhun Limsamarnphun
The N

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Partial switch-off likely; private sector wants advance notice for planning

Thana Puttarangsri, deputy governor of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, estimates that power usage will top 26,300 megawatts on April 5 when natural-gas delivery from Myanmar is suspended. The absence of 1,100 cubic feet per day of natural gas from Myanmar from that date until April 12 will seriously affect Thailand’s electricity generation, as gas accounts for as much as 70 per cent of the fuel used for that purpose.

“If we produce, say, only 26,000MW on that date against the projected demand of 26,300MW, there will be a shortage of 300MW. This means the Metropolitan Electricity Authority [MEA] and the Provincial Electricity Authority [PEA], which buy power from us, would have to switch off some electricity supplies,” Thana said.
“We have tentatively agreed that the switch-off will be proportionate to the MEA’s and PEA’s purchases, which are currently 30 and 70 per cent of our output respectively.
“In other words, the MEA will get 90MW less while the PEA will get 210MW less. The MEA will likely turn off power in some suburban areas of Greater Bangkok from 1-3pm on April 5, meaning that each of, say, three areas may not have power for one hour on a rotation basis to minimise the impacts on power users.
“Regarding the PEA, the same method can be used for provincial areas, which may include some southern provinces. Both agencies have the data on where the power users are situated. This will happen only in the worst-case scenario.
“On that date, we would have a national power reserve of 767MW if we didn’t do anything to manage the demand/supply situation. In that scenario, power supply would be disrupted if, say, one 700MW power plant is offline.
“However, we’ve managed to boost the reserve to around 1,200MW so there is less risk of power disruption.”
Tanit Sorat, secretary-general of the Federation of Thai Industries, said: “If the power authorities have to switch off electricity during the period, they should inform businesses and industries well in advance so that they make plans to avoid impacts on their operations. We should know at least 10 days in advance.
“The industrial sector, which uses as much as 60 per cent of the total electricity output, needs a specific power-management plan from the government so that we can plan our production schedule to help avoid a power shortage.
“Heavy industries such cement, steel and automobile factories have already announced plans to suspend or alternate production schedules.
“However, many small and medium-sized enterprises depend on continuous production schedules.
“The critical date is April 5, which is a Friday. In that case, factories may plan to boost production on April 7, which is a Sunday, to compensate for the lost output in the event that they choose to close their production lines on April 5. To do so, we need to plan in advance.”
Paiboon Ponsuwanna, chairman of the Thai National Shippers Council, said: “Authorities need to be careful in making public statements on this issue because buyers of Thai exports could worry about whether their shipments will be affected by a power disruption next month.
“Some big industries such as cement and steel have said they are ready to shut down for a day to avoid high power usage on that date. That wouldn’t hurt the export sector, since cement and steel are raw materials, and most are not destined for export markets.
“So far, I understand that 60 big companies will cooperate by suspending production on April 5, helping to reduce electricity consumption by around 400MW. This will boost the power reserve from around 700MW to 1,100MW.”