Plants may shut on April 5 to ease power woes
More than 8,000 factories plan to cut operating hours or shut down altogether on April 5, when power reserves fall to a critically low level of 750 megawatts, or only 2.63 per cent of the country's 28,479MW generating capacity.
Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal said members of the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) were willing to cooperate with the government on energy saving by reducing non-essential operations and might close down some plants on April 5. They will shift production to other days that will not affect the power reserve as much.
Meanwhile, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and business operators in some Southern provinces have stepped up preparations for the expected peak power consumption in April, including a plan by Egat to purchase additional electricity from Malaysia.
Pongsak with the FTI to seek joint solutions to deal with the possible power shortage during one of the hottest months of the year. Myanmar has warned that supply from a gas field in the Andaman Sea will be temporarily suspended for a short time in April for drill-rig repairs. The Myanmar gas is used to fuel Thai power plants.
"This collaboration with FTI members will help boost the power reserve above the danger zone," Pongsak said. "The ministry will talk with the FTI again in the next two weeks to conclude how much FTI members can help save energy."
The industrial sector accounts for 40 per cent of total electricity consumption in Thailand. If it can reduce power consumption by 10 per cent, it would therefore reduce overall electricity use by 4 per cent.
FTI chairman Payungsak Chartsutipol said that if major industries suspended operations on April 5, this would save a huge amount of energy. The federation will call a meeting with members in all 42 industrial categories soon to see how much they can help. He believes that 8,000 factories that are members of the FTI will be willing to support the effort.
Meanwhile Worapot Intarathong, director of operations for Egat's Southern region, said demand in April was forecast to surge to 2,500 megawatts from the normal average of 2,350MW.
Total power-production capacity in the South is 2,100MW, plus 300MW per day it purchases from Malaysia and a back-up reserve of 600MW. But this year the South might not be able to depend on the 600MW reserve, as Myanmar's Yadana gas field will temporarily suspend the supply to Thailand in April.
Egat has arranged for Malaysia to double its electricity supply to 600MW per day. The authority will also activate its diesel-run power plant in Surat Thani, which has capacity of 240MW per day.
In a related matter, according to the Provincial Electricity Authority, the installation of the fourth power-transmission line from Kanom power plant to Samui was 90 per cent complete. The 54-kilometre line can transmit 115 kilowatts to the island. The project cost is Bt4 billion, and it is set to start providing electricity next month.
Samui and nearby Koh Pha-ngan suffered blackouts for a few days in December caused by electrical short circuits in the main undersea cable.
In an impromptu inquiry by the House of Representatives yesterday, Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal said Thailand was risking national energy security from depending too heavily on natural gas to generate electricity. It has to seek alternatives to reduce this risk. However, the possible rise in electricity prices and the consequent impact on business will also have to be factored in if using other sources to produce power.