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Thailand's Energy Absolute to Invest $1.4 Billion in Solar, Wind Projects

Energy Absolute Pcl, whose Bangkok- listed shares have more than tripled this year, plans to spend about 46 billion baht ($1.4 billion) over the next three years to boost generation capacity from renewable energy.

Capacity will increase by 570 megawatts by 2017 from about 100 megawatts, Chief Financial Officer Amorn Sapthaweekul said yesterday. The company, operator of Thailand’s biggest solar power project, is spending 17 billion baht to build two solar projects with combined capacity of 180 megawatts. It plans to invest an additional 29 billion baht on wind farms with total output of 390 megawatts, he said.

Energy Absolute is diversifying into renewable energy from its traditional business of biodiesel production to take advantage of easy access to the national grid and financing to ramp up capacity. The shift in focus came as Thailand began providing incentives in 1992 to reduce the country’s reliance on imports, which still account for more than half of its energy supply. Capacity from solar and wind will rise to 4,800 megawatts by 2021 from 1,046 megawatts in 2013, according to the Energy Ministry’s website.

“The company has a strong ambition to become the leading operator of renewable energy in Thailand and the region,” Amorn said in an interview at his office in Bangkok. “Revenue from solar and wind power plants will outstrip the company’s traditional biodiesel business after the completion of those new plants in the next few years.”

Biomass still accounts for the majority of Thailand’s renewable energy capacity, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data. Thailand had 2,085 megawatts of biomass capacity compared with 847 megawatts of solar and 242 megawatts of wind in 2013, the data show.

Solar Farms

Energy Absolute in December began operating a 90-megawatt solar farm in Nakhon Sawan province, about 250 kilometers (160 miles) north of Bangkok. The plant is the country’s biggest solar farm by capacity, according to the Energy Ministry’s Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency Department.

A second 90-megawatt solar plant will begin commercial operation at the end of the year, followed by a similar-sized facility in December 2015, Amorn said. Wind farms in the southern Thai province of Nakhon Si Thammarat with total capacity of 126 megawatts will be completed in September 2015, and wind projects in Chaiyaphum province in the country’s northeast, will be built by 2017, he said.

About three-fourths of the investment funds will come from commercial bank loans and the remainder from the company’s cash flow, he said.

“Investment in solar farms will further strengthen Energy Absolute’s lead among Thailand’s operators of solar power plants,” said Kriengkrai Tumnutud, an analyst at AEC Securities Pcl in Bangkok. “Wind power plants will be much riskier because of unpredictable wind and harder financing.”

Billionaire Founder

Somphote Ahunai, the founder of Energy Absolute, became a billionaire this year as the company’s stock more than tripled to a record. Somphote, 46, owns about 40 percent of Energy Absolute, according to a March 27 filing to the Stock Exchange of Thailand. The stake is valued at $1.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

The company’s share price has rallied 216 percent this year, compared with a 72 percent gain in the MAI Index, which includes 101 small- and medium-sized companies. Energy Absolute accounts for almost a third of the index’s total weighting, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The stock fell 2.8 percent to 24.20 baht yesterday.

Energy Absolute also has capacity to produce more than 211,000 gallons (800,000 liters) of biodiesel and 80 tons of glycerin a day, according to its website.

The company’s profit surged more than sixfold to 408.4 million baht in the second quarter, from 60.5 million baht a year earlier, according to its latest filing. Earnings were boosted by revenue from a 90-megawatt solar power plant that started operations in December, it said in a separate statement.

Copyright 2014 Bloomberg

Lead image: Bangkok via Shutterstock

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