Thailand expects to buy 20,000 megawatts more of electricity from Laos and Myanmar combined as part of the country's bid to diversify energy sources by reducing dependence on natural gas in power generation.
Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal said electricity supplies from Laos and Myanmar are mostly from hydroelectric and coal-fired power plants.
A decade ago, Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to purchase 1,500 MW of electricity from Myanmar and 7,000 MW from Laos. So far, about 2,000 MW of hydroelectric power are supplied from Laos with another 3,000 MW of coal-fired and hydroelectric plants in the country under development. Hydroelectric and coal-fired power supply from Myanmar has not started.
Under the revised Power Development Plan, covering 2010 to 2030, supply from neighbouring countries is limited to 20% of total power generation.
Mr Pongsak said the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) has been assigned to accelerate talks with Laos and Myanmar and renew the MoU, adding 10,000 MW from each country. Supply in these two countries far exceeds demand, he said, though their economies are growing.
"Particularly after the Asean Economic Community (AEC) takes effect in 2016, the economic growth in this region will skyrocket, stimulating electricity demand," said Mr Pongsak.
The minister said Thailand depends on gas "too much", as it constitutes 70% of power generation. Coal accounts for 20% and hydropower 5%.
Over the next several years, higher-cost liquefied natural gas (LNG) will gradually increase its share in electricity generation, causing electricity expenses to rise.
Sutat Patmasiriwat, Egat's governor, said Thailand faces delays in power plant construction because of strong protest from environmental activists, not only against conventional power plants but also renewable energies.
He said electricity bills may nearly double to six baht per megawatt-hour (unit) from 3.2 baht if LNG dominates the supply, hurting Thailand's competitiveness in manufacturing costs.
"Making the people understand the importance of clean coal and other clean technologies is very challenging for us as we to try to kick-start the development of more coal-fired power plants in Thailand," said Mr Sutat.
Chen Namchaisiri, vice-chairman of the Federation of Thai Industries, said Thailand should look at nuclear power because it emits much less carbon dioxide than fossil fuels.
About the author
- Writer: Yuthana Praiwan
Position: Business Reporter