Bioenergy, Project Development

Renewables a Hot Topic in Thailand

Here in Bangkok, the first Renewable Energy World Asia event started on Wednesday, alongside the long-established POWER-GEN Asia. Thanks in part to Thailand’s 15-year Renewable Energy Development Plan, launched last year, renewable energy was a key feature in all the addresses in the shared opening keynote session, where Lt Dr Prapas Limpabanhu of Thailand’s Ministry for Energy, Sutat Patrmsiriwat of EGAT (Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand) and Doosan’s Dong-Soo Suh gave their perspectives on the region’s energy future.

In the shared plenary panel discussion on the impact of the economic recession on the Asian power industry, the mood was generally upbeat, with most speakers from the investment community agreed that the climate for renewables investment had in fact benefited, due to the drop in price of solar and wind plant. However, looming uncertainty about the future of the CDM, due to be negotiated in Copenhagen in December following preliminary discussions in Bangkok this week, is a concern: the CDM has been a key driver in the development of renewables here, especially in the biomass sector.

At the REW Asia opening session, Dr Twarath Sutabutr of the Department for Alternate Energy and Efficiency presented some of the details of Thailand’s Renewable Energy Development Plan (REDP), which aims for renewables to provide 20% of final energy demand by 2020, partly to increase national energy security and of course with important climate and economic benefits. The three-phase plan has intermediate targets – first, between 2008 and 2011, to step up from today’s 6.4 percent to 15.6 percent (10,961 ktoe), then by 2016 to 19.1 percent (15,579 ktoe), and by 2022 to 20.3 percent (19,799 ktoe). A primary goal of the plan is for renewables to replace oil, thus biofuels are a key component alongside renewable electricity and heat. 

During the first phase Thailand will focus on promoting proven renewables technologies (feed-in tariffs are already available and a Very Small Power Producers programme now provides stimulus to projects up to 10 megawatts – previously the programme applied only to schemes under 2 megawatts.)

In the middle phase the emphasis will be on promoting the renewable technology industry and making it economically sound, developing a ‘green city’ model, encouraging new biofuel production technologies, and strengthening of local energy production.

In the final phase, Thailand wants to promote itself as ASEAN’s export hub for biofuels and renewable energy technology.

By 2022, the plan represents 5608 megawatts of renewable electricity generation, the majority of which will come from biomass (3700 compared with 1610 megawatts in 2008). Wind power would grow from a mere 1 megawatt to 800 megawatts (half the technical potential identified) and solar – largely photovoltaics – from 32 megawatts to 500 megawatts (just one percent of the technical potential of 50,000 megawatts the Ministry of Energy has identified).  Biomass heat would increase from 2781 ktoe to 6760 ktoe.

The Ministry of Energy  expects investment over the 15-year period, from public and private sources, to be some 488 billion Baht (US$ 14.6 billion).