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Emergency measures for power shortage

People may have to cut usage of electricity in April, minister warns

The Energy Ministry is preparing emergency measures for April to deal with an imminent shortage of power following disruption of gas supply.

Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal will hold discussions with relevant agencies next week to avert the crisis. The risk is significant, according to him, because Thailand will lose access to a huge amount of natural gas - a key energy source for the country's power plants - during that month.

April has usually seen peak power consumption in the country. As the Mercury soars, people usually turn on more of their air-conditioners in that month every year. While Thailand has made plans for adequate electricity supply, the country is facing a risk this year because its access to natural gas will be seriously affected from April 4.

"We will have to ask people and government agencies to save electricity," Pongsak said yesterday in the "Yingluck-led Government Meets People" programme.

The programme was broadcast via both Channel 11 television station and the FM92.5 radio station between 8am and 9am. Pongsak said Myanmar would be shutting down its natural gas fields temporarily to fix drilling rigs. The repair is due to start on April 4.

Pongsak said that the closure would deny Thailand daily access to 1,100 million cubic feet of natural gas. This will be a serious blow as Thailand has already been losing daily access to 270 million cubic feet of natural gas through the Thai-Malaysian gas pipeline whose anchor was accidentally hit and damaged late last year.

"Without natural gas supply from these two sources, the country's power-generation capacity will drop by 4,100 megawatts of electricity per day," Pongsak pointed out.

He said his ministry now planned to revive dormant power plants that relied on other sources of energy to cope with the loss of natural-gas supply. However, he said there was a risk that the move would not ensure adequate supply of electricity. "Power consumption in Thailand soars high when April arrives," Pongsak pointed out.

Last year, power consumption peaked on April 25 at a record 25,682 megawatts, according to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, as the temperature soared to 38.4 degrees Celsius.

Pongsak said his ministry would try to talk with Myanmar to see whether it could reschedule the planned repair of natural-gas drilling rigs during the Thai long holiday period.

In April, there are several official holidays for Chakri Day (April 6) and Songkran Festival (April 13-15).

Pongsak said the imminent power shortage is a reminder for all that Thailand needed to plan well its energy sector. He said that while it was good that non-governmental organisations speak up for the environment, activists should understand and not oppose a project if it was well planned and measures to minimise environmental impacts were in place.

"Hydroelectric dams, for example, are good. Apart from generating power, they will also prevent flooding," he said. Pongsak said his ministry at the same time would work on the development of renewable and clean energy such as wind and solar energy.

Why a power shortage?



Box

-Natural gas accounts for 68 per cent of energy source for power generation.

-Damage to the Thai-Malaysian gas pipeline has cut Thailand's access to 270 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.

-Temporary closure of gas fields in Myanmar will cut Thai access to 1,270 million cubic feet of |natural gas per day in April.

-Thailand's power-generation capacity is set to drop by 4,100 megawatts of electricity per day.



Source: Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, the Energy Ministry.




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