RENEWABLE energy will account for 30 per cent of the country’s electricity production within 15 years – with no extra cost to the people, Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan vowed yesterday.
Siri, in announcing the target for green-sourced energy, said the drafting of a proposal for a 300-megawatt biomass project in the three southernmost provinces expedited – for completion within two months – before it is forwarded to the National Energy Policy Council (NEPC).
Sir said the Energy Ministry’s 15-year target to raise the raise the share of renewable energy in the national energy mix would be achieved without any burden being passed on to ordinary people. The electricity cost will not be higher than the current wholesale price range of Bt2.40-Bt2.50 per unit, the minister said.
The promotion of renewable energy is part of the government’s policy to drive forward the economy. Currently, Thailand uses about 10 per cent of the country’s electricity generation from renewable sources - ranging from solar cells and wind turbines to biomass and biogas - with total generation of 45,000 megawatts.
Given what the government describes as a relatively competitive electricity cost, it has a policy to promote electricity generation of about 250-300 megawatts from a biomass project in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat provinces. A facility in Yala will be the centre of the generation scheme as part of a plan to set up a regional electricity system that will be built around a smart grid system under a new unit, the Regional Power System (RPS).
A stake of 24.5 per cent in RPS will be held by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), with a stake of 24.5 per cent held by the Provincial Electricity Authority and 51 per cent owned by community enterprises.
Under the scheme, farmers will earn about Bt800 per tonne of wood to be sold. About 20 small power plants with capacity of 9-10 megawatts are expected to be scattered across the target areas. The electricity cost is determined at Bt3.40 per unit for sale to people.
This plan has been expedited by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for completion within two or three months before forwarding it to the NEPC for approval.
In the meantime, Egat, which will set up floating solar farms in large dams, will join with Siam Cement Group (SCG) to test the system. Initially, the authority found the potential capacity for electricity generation to be about 1,000-2,000 megawatts, which boosted the ministry’s confidence to increase the target for renewable-sourced electricity to 30 per cent of the total within 15 years.
According to the new Power Development Plan (PDP), which is being prepared, if the electricity cost of fossil fuels is about Bt2.10-Bt2.20 per unit, the government will be able to purchase electricity in the order of 1,000-2,000 megawatts to sustain the stability of the electricity system.
“In the next 10-15 years, a coal-fired power plant at Mae Moh will have passed its use and if there are no new power plants coming, or more electricity imports, the coal-fired electricity capacity will be lower than 10 per cent,” Siri said. “That would be a level that is too low when compared other countries, where coal-fired production electricity accounts for 30-40 per cent of total electricity generation capacity.”
Therefore, more coal-fired electricity plants are needed under the PDP at proper locations with community acceptance and, by the end of this year, there may be certain directions issued for Thailand’s coal-fired power plants, he said.
He insisted that there is no magic pill that can be used to subsidise fuel and energy prices to levels below their costs.
Based on a global study, for every Bt1 of subsidy for energy, Bt0.60-Bt0.70 is for the benefit of better off people and Bt0.20-Bt0.30 is for poor people.
Siri said that the price of household liquefied petroleum gas has been sustained at Bt363 per cylinder in order to lessen the impact on people’s cost of living. The minister expressed confidence that the Bt392-million LPG account will be able to cope with a higher global LPG price within one month.
If the account depletes, the oil account can be transferred to help make adjustments for the LPG price, he said.