what others say
Reduce dependency on natural gas
Thailand has approximately 32,000 MW of power production capacity. In early April, a temporary shutdown of imported natural gas from Myanmar is expected to reduce that power output by approximately 6,000 MW of electricity production capability.This will result in a limited power output of 26,000 MW, while the forecasted power consumption during this reduced capacity period is expected to reach 26,500 MW. This leaves a 500 MW gap in demand and supply of power. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and government entities have announced a contingency plan to mitigate this by firing up old power plants, increasing domestic and international power purchases and other measures including greater coordiation with industrial plants. This begs the question, how reliant are we on a single source of fuel for our power production?
"Energy Statistics of Thailand 2012" states that the total installed power capacity is 31,447 MW, of which 67 per cent utilises natural gas as its fuel source. Twenty per cent of total natural gas consumption is imported. Most of the imported natural gas is from Myanmar, and a small fraction is imported as liquefied natural gas.
Domestic natural gas is sourced from 13 major fields both inland and at sea. The current largest oil field is the Bongkot Project, 600 kilometres south of Bangkok in the Gulf of Thailand. Bongkot and the Thailand-Malaysia Joint Development Area projects produce approximately 18 per cent and 15 per cent of all natural production of the regional natural gas market, respectively.
The significant use of natural gas in power production has left the country largely dependent on the reliability of natural gas supply for most of the nation's power demand. If there is any maintenance or downtime, such as that expected in April, we could face energy shortages. A possible solution would be to diversify our energy sources.
In the "Summary of the Thailand Power Development Plan 2012-2030" (PDP2010: Revision 3), a diversification of energy sources is being planned for additional production capacity of 55,130 MW by 2030. The proposed additional capacity will include renewable energy power plants, co-generation, combined cycle power plants and thermal power plants, which represent 17 per cent, 12 per cent, 46 per cent and 16 per cent of the added capacity, respectively. Coal-fired power plants and nuclear power plants are also proposed, at 4,400 MW and 2,000 MW, respectively.
The level of variety in our energy sources will increase, with a noticeable increase in alternative energy sources. Within the renewable energy sector, solar farms are expected to contribute approximately 3,802 MW. What if we were able to expand the solar energy potential beyond commercial solar power production? From 2010 data of the National Statistical Office, there are 14,728,702 detached housing units in the Kingdom. If a quarter of these installed residential solar panels with an average power capacity of 1 kW, this could result in total installed capacity of residential solar power at 3,682 MW. An added benefit of residential solar panels is that most will be able to produce electricity to feed into the national grid during peak power consumption.
There's also another huge potential for renewable energy. In 2008, Thailand collected 41,064 tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) per day. That's approximately 13 million tonnes annually. Currently, MSW is being landfilled. If we were able to sort and utilise a portion of this waste to produce electricity, we would be able to reduce the amount of waste that needs to be landfilled and add an energy source to our power production.
The biggest questions are what policies and regulations can be advanced by this and future governments in promoting renewable energy for both residential and commercial power production, to secure our energy needs and reliability.
Krib Sitathani is an energy consultant and writer based in Bangkok.