Egat looks to Malaysia for power

Move will prevent threatened blackouts

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) plans to increase electricity reserves to 1,000 megawatts from the expected 700 MW during April's scheduled disruption in the supply of natural gas from Myanmar.

Thana Putarungsi, Egat's deputy governor for transmission systems, said to avert possible blackouts in Thailand from April 4-14, Egat will ask Malaysia's utility to supply 200 MW of electricity.

Egat will also ask the operators of power plants fuelled by bunker oil and diesel to produce the maximum output so an additional 30 MW will be generated on top of the existing 1,400 MW, he said.

Maintenance work on a gas platform in Myanmar's Yadana block in the Gulf of Martaban will cause a dip of 1.1 billion cubic feet per day of gas to Thailand. Gas from Myanmar accounts for a quarter of Thailand's supply, with gas making up 70% of power generation domestically.

Mr Thana said Egat examined the electricity supply system and found that only 767 MW or 2% of the total power reserve would be available during that April period, making a power outage possible. Normally reserves of 10-15% of the country's generating capacity of 31,000 MW are available.

The supply disruption will mainly affect three power plants in western Thailand with a combined generating capacity of 6,000 MW. Egat projects power consumption will peak at 26,000 MW on April 5, when the temperature is forecast to be 36 degrees Celsius.

He said Egat is planning to maximise output at two hydroelectric dams in western Thailand to generate another 5 MW. Small power producers such as Dan Chang Sugar Mill will also be asked to supply more electricity to the utility.

Egat will ask large private power users including Siam City Cement Plc, TPI Polene and Thai-Asahi to cut production during the peak hours of that period to save 65 MW of consumption.

"None of the power plants in the country will be disrupted, or else outages will occur," said Mr Thana.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) sent a letter to more than 8,000 corporate members asking them to halt production on April 5 and instead operate on Sunday, April 7.

The industrial sector is the largest power user in Thailand, accounting for about 40% of overall consumption.

The FTI's Automotive Industry Club has confirmed the willingness of its members to follow the order.

Together with parts suppliers, thousands of factories are slated to suspend production on April 5, said FTI vice-chairman Chen Namchaisiri, adding that textile manufacturers have also agreed to the ban.

"Other main targets include petrochemical and cement manufacturers, which also consume a lot of electricity. If those plants partially reduce production, some 5-10% of electricity will be saved," he said.

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Writer: Yuthana Praiwan and Nareerat Wiriyapong