THE GOVERNMENT sector of Thailand and other Asian countries needs urgently to prepare for the new challenges shaped by energy transition, said Air Chief Marshal Prajin Juntong, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, at the 7th Asian Ministerial Energy Roundtable, held earlier this month in Bangkok.
In order for energy transition to go smoothly, it is necessary for government to take a strong role in setting directions and devising policies, he said. And that includes creating a favourable environment for private investment in the energy sector.
Prajin said that in the past 10 years, the world has gone through many changes as has the energy sector. The challenges created by climate change are becoming an increasingly important driver of change. The Paris Agreement on Climate Change directly implicates the energy sector, which contributes two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions that threaten the planet, sustainable development, and our way of life.
Most of the world’s countries are wrestling with the challenge of transitioning to a green economy by focusing on developing clean and sustainable energy options in order to become a low-carbon society.
Moreover, technological development has grown rapidly. Disruptive technologies are increasingly emerging in the energy sector, not only electric vehicles and energy storage systems, but also renewable energy technology developments which help lower the investment cost. In addition, there is the upcoming trend of self-producing and self-consuming energy known as “Prosumer”.
With all these developments, global energy consumption will begin to change. The use of fossil fuels, though still very important, will gradually decline while renewable energy sources will replace them.
The deployment of clean energy technologies, coupled with much-improved energy efficiency, will also play an increasingly important role.
The transition of energy markets are also inevitable. Once the production and consumption trends change, traditional energy markets would have to adapt to the challenges and to the new emerging technologies. The current energy markets, whether oil or gas, are becoming more competitive since there are new players entering the market. At the same time, uncertainties in the markets are high because of the new energy-saving technologies, the arrival of electric vehicles or the trend to clean energy consumption. This will lower the demand for energy consumption. From the challenges and changes mentioned, energy transition is unavoidable.
Prajin said that in the global and regional energy situation at present, the growth in energy consumption comes mostly from developing countries. This growth is a result of an increase in population, migration and urbanisation as well as improvement in the quality of life. Without a doubt, the world still needs to rely on the use of fossil fuel for now. Asia has one of the highest rates of energy consumption, accounting for two-thirds of the world’s growth in energy consumption in recent years. This is due to the growth in large economies such as China and India as well as the Southeast Asian nations with rapid economic development.
According to the International Energy Agency’s forecast, global energy demand will increase by 30 per cent in 2040, with the largest share of energy supply coming from renewables. The share of renewable energy in power generation is projected to reach 60 per cent with the majority from wind and solar. As for fossil fuels, natural gas is predicted to grow the fastest with consumption rising by 50 per cent.
Prajin noted that that it had been a year since Thailand lost His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the “Father of Thai Energy Development”. The late King laid a solid foundation for the country’s energy development by actively encouraging the use of alternative energy. He pioneered the “sufficiency economy” philosophy still upheld as a principle for the management of the country’s natural resources. With the late King’s principle in mind, Thailand’s Ministry of Energy has formulated a “Thailand Integrated Energy Blueprint” to drive the country towards energy security, economic prosperity and environmental sustainability.
Additionally, the government has set a policy called “Thailand 4.0” as an attempt to revive the economy, increase the country’s competitiveness and escape the “middle-income trap” by transforming the country’s economic structure to a value and innovation-based economy. The government also gives priority to the policy in the development of Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) to support investment and economic development.
To be in line with Thailand 4.0, the Ministry of Energy has launched “Energy 4.0”. This policy is composed of four major energy areas including promotion of electric vehicle such as E-Tuk Tuk, energy storage systems, hybrid power generation from renewable sources, and “smart city” and “smart grid” advanced technologies.
Taken together, these policies put Thailand in a transition period “where we aim to drive our energy sector towards an increasingly modernised and smart future,” said Prajin. “This will be a pressing challenge for us on how to manage the country’s energy system to have a secure, cost-competitive and environmentally-friendly source of energy.”