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Political unrest may stall development of alternative energy

The ongoing political impasse could delay the Energy Ministry's alternative-energy projects, especially the rooftop solar-panel scheme and review of the feed-in tariff (FIT) electricity rate to promote recycled energy, which both require approval by the National Energy Policy Office (NEPO) and the next government, permanent secretary Suthep Liamsiricharoen said yesterday.

The revised electricity rate (FIT) is necessary to attract more investments in alternative- and recycled- energy projects, he said.

Based on the results of a NEPO study, the emphasis will be on small biomass-driven power plants (community-level type) categorised in four classes according to production capacity: less than 300 kilowatts, 300-1,000KW, 1-3 megawatts and 3-10MW.

The specified structure of the FIT is divided into two parts - the fixed rate, which will be based directly on a power plant's production costs, and the variable rate, which will vary according to fluctuating cost of the biomass fuels.

The power-purchase FIT rate for biomass-driven power generation will be in the Bt3.78-Bt5.41 per unit range.

The purchase FIT rate for garbage-driven power generation will be in the Bt4.69-Bt6.32/unit range, while it will be Bt4.90/unit for biogas (from Napier grass)-driven power generation - up from Bt4.50.

Last year, alternative energy accounted for 10.9 per cent of Thailand's power consumption, up from the 9.9 per cent in 2012, said the official.

Most involved power generation from thermal (heat) production fuelled by biomass, which generated 3,503MW of power, up from 2,633MW in 2012.

Biomass power generation accounted for 2,230MW, up from 1,956MW the prior year, followed by solar-powered electricity generation of 635MW, against 250MW in 2012. Thermal generation from alternative energy was at 5,335 thousand tonnes of oil equivalent, up from 4,885 in the previous year.

Last year, the alternative-energy sector used 5.31 million litres of biofuels a day, up from 3.83 million litres daily in 2012. This comprised ethanol at 2.53 million litres per day, up from 1.29 million in 2012, and biodiesel fuel at 2.78 million litres, up from 2.54 million litres.

Overall biofuels usage this year is projected to increase slightly, as the government still caps the retail price of diesel fuel at no more than B30/litre, while bio-diesel (or B-100) is higher than Bt30/litre, he said.

The price differential between E10 and of E20 gasohol is not enough to entice consumers to use more E20, hence price is the most important factor in raising consumption of biofuels.

As for biomass (from Napier grass)-driven power generation, for which the target is up to 3,000MW, the progress of the project is dependent on the next cabinet's approval of the revised FIT rate, said Suthep.


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