Thailand's Path to Green and Clean – part 3
Thai Electricity Generation System
One of the main features of the current power generation system in Thailand is that the electricity cannot be stored but must be distributed directly to users or consumers through a transmission and distribution system. Therefore, electricity generation needs to be brought under national planning through Power Development Plan (PDP), which ensures that future electricity supplies are sufficient to meet demand. State bodies consequently have a vital role to play in managing production, distribution, pricing, and investment planning in order to increase supply to national networks. Gross domestic demand for electricity tends to fluctuate with the economic situation – the average rate of growth closely follows the GDP. Electricity Demand and Economic Growth illustrated on the adjacent chart.
Power Development Plan (PDP 2018–2037)
Thailand’s new path to renewables through the Power Development Plan (PDP) and its predecessor, the Alternative Energy Development Plan (AEDP), has set renewables in explosive growth. The industry expects to see continuous growth, especially in solar PV installations in the future, based on the pipeline of projects and potential new rounds of tendering for SPPs and VSPPs, activity in the rooftop solar PV market and the continued reduction in costs, including savings from simplified administrative procedures.
The government has put the country on the path to achieving 77,211 MW of total electricity capacity by 2037 through it’s PDP plan . This means that by the target year, Thailand must add 56,431 MW of new capacity to deployment levels from 2018 by 2037. Additional Capacity by Fuel for 2018-2037 illustrated on the adjacent chart. Thailand’s total power production is expected to come from natural gas 53%, non-fossil fuels 35%, and coal 12 percent% by the end of 2037.
The government also plans for the expansion of the power distribution network, which is required to meet increasing production, especially that from renewable sources of power.
Power Distribution Network
Developing the potential of all renewable energy sources for electricity generation requires the harmonization of other variables such as transmission capacity, available land, load profile, grid flexibility, and an appropriate regulatory framework. Given the variability and potential complementary between different forms of renewable energy such as solar, wind, biomass, and hydropower, the sector has evolved from a single source renewable energy development model to a regional/zone-based model, also known as “renewable energy zoning.” To minimize overall costs, the country has to develop a portfolio of complementary renewable energy sources, combined with intelligent control systems to manage variable sources, such as solar and wind energy.
This development completely relies on the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), who is responsible for all of the transmissions of electricity in Thailand, a number of statutory direct customers, and neighboring countries. It owns and maintains a national transmission network that includes power lines and substations with a nationwide high voltage rating. The Energy Industry Act B.E. 2550 (2007) theoretically allows other applicants to obtain an electricity transmission license. However, EGAT is the only entity that has received this license, so in reality, all transmission networks are built by EGAT.
Blockchain and Green Bonds
Australian blockchain company, Power Ledger, and a Thai renewable energy business, BCPG, launched a peer to peer (P2P) renewable energy trading trial in Bangkok back in August 2018. The Energy Bit visited the site (Read the full article here). They partnered for two years with Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) to develop the pilot project with a total capacity of 635 kilowatts of solar power. The trial allows for excess electricity to be sold directly within the community rather than through state utilities.
In December 2018, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) invested in green bonds worth $155 million, issued by B. Grimm, which is one of Thailand’s leading private power producers. It was the first certified climate loan to be issued in Thailand, which provides funding for more renewable energy projects in the country. The green bond proceeds will be used at nine operational solar power plants in Thailand, with a total capacity of 67.7 MW.
In addition to the remarkable solar achievement on land, EGAT plans to build the World’s Biggest Floating Solar Farm with a combined capacity of more than 2.7 GW by 2037. This capacity will be established in the form of 16 solar farms on 9 of its hydroelectric dam reservoirs. EGAT hopes to improve its hydroelectric power production with these systems. Solar power is generated during the daylight while hydropower is used at night and during peak demand periods. Also, floating solar installations can use the already existing substations, transmission lines, and other hydroelectric utility dam infrastructure which is typically oversized and over-engineered to account for variations in water level. Additional plans include using lithium-ion batteries to store power generated by these projects. We will go into more specifics with this project with our upcoming interview with EGAT.
In April 2016, the government issued an economic model, Thailand 4.0, that aims to relieve the country of several economic challenges resulting from the past. Previous economic development models emphasized agriculture (Thailand 1.0), light industry (Thailand 2.0), and advanced industry (Thailand 3.0). Thailand 4.0 focuses on the “value-based economy” as the country has to deal effectively with disparities and environmental and social imbalances driving the nation to become a high-income and low carbon society. The plan encourages Thai people to make better use of digital technology in the most effective ways, from finding better career opportunities to developing learning skills in general. Digital technology has evolved to provide greater convenience and efficiency, backed up by the ability to reduce excessive costs and completely eliminate constraints for the public and private sectors.
Though the renewable energy transition is merely getting off the ground, it shows the country is heading in the right direction to become a low carbon society. One of its strategies includes maintaining its momentum to develop renewable energy, which is a key factor in realizing the ambitious Thailand 4.0 national strategy.
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