After weeks of anxiety over the energy crisis, the country can sigh with relief today.
Last month, the country was alarmed by Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisal's warning of possible power outages due to Myanmar's shutdown of the Yadana gas field for annual maintenance in the first half of April. Today, April 5, was picked as the most vulnerable day.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) yesterday issued an assurance that would no longer be the case. In short, the power scare was overblown. On the positive side, the false alarm has forced us to think more seriously about how the country should cope with increasing power demands without putting the country at risk of more pollution, health problems or adding to the global warming menace.
That was not what the energy minister had in mind, however. Immediately after his energy crisis warning, he tried to capitalise on public fears by offering coal-fired power plants as a solution, as well as suggesting an increase in the electricity fee to boost power reserves when summer energy demand is at its height.
Feeling cheated, the public refused to buy his "clean" coal arguments. Meanwhile, energy experts criticised his energy shortage figures as inaccurate and overblown as the Myanmar gas disruption is an annual affair which has never posed energy shortage threats before.
Some also accused him of scare tactics designed to push coal-fired power plants down the public's throat. Former energy minister Piyasvasti Amranand, for one, exposed the government's dubious plan to increase electricity fees by revealing the cost of this month's gas disruption was already factored into last year's Ft increase.
In response, the energy boss softened his warning and revealed what other sources of energy are available _ including the amount of energy gained from power conservation measures _ to ensure sufficient power reserves during the Yadana gas disruption.
But Mr Pongsak has not given up the coal-fired power plant idea. In comments earlier this week, he still described coal as a clean source of energy and a good option for the country to reduce its dependency on natural gas, which now accounts for 70% of energy consumption. He also dismissed alternative or "green" energy, saying it is still too expensive for Thailand.
His dismissal, however, goes against Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's energy policy blueprints. Unveiling the policies of her government when it took office, Ms Yingluck underscored the importance of green energy and conservation by promising to replace fossil fuel with green energy by 25% within 10 years.
On the demand management side, she has promised to accelerate power conservation as well as to support industry and household use of green energy to ease global warming.
To achieve this goal, the government must invest in research and development in locally produced alternative energy, which is now nearly non-existent. The industrial and commercial sectors, which are consuming about 70% of the energy supply, must be pushed to shift to green power and better conservation technology.
True, efforts by citizens to save power are still necessary, but they only use 20% of supply. In fact, a national power conservation plan already exists. The problem is it has never been implemented. The time is now.
It is the energy minister's duty to execute the premier's policy to increase green energy and power self-reliance, and ease global warming, instead of pushing for unpopular coal-fired power plants. Otherwise, Ms Yingluck's policy pledges will be reduced to mere empty rhetoric.