Energy reform plan ready for action

Energy reform plan ready for action

Open and free participation is prioritised to deal with disruption in the next two decades

A hybrid car is charged at a PTT station in Nonthaburi province.
A hybrid car is charged at a PTT station in Nonthaburi province.

Thailand's energy reform plan is ready for implementation, with an emphasis on deregulating the electricity sector and enhancing competitiveness among private operators.

The new version aims for open and free private participation in the energy sector and deregulation of all aspects over the next two decades, as the country's policymakers tackle the unavoidable impact of disruptive technology.

Thailand did an initial reform in the 1990s by deregulating oil and electricity, including a privatisation programme for the state's energy enterprises.

The second reform was to beef up penetration of renewable energy in the 2010s.

The new version is the third stage, which was under draft from 2015 until the end of last year by the National Reform Steering Assembly.

The energy reform plan has been crafted alongside those of other sectors, including environment, human resources, national competitiveness, administration of state agency, national defence and social equality.

The energy sector is part of the national competitiveness plan.

Nantika Thangsuphanich, deputy permanent secretary of energy, said the plan is crucially needed because several activities in the sector have suffered from delays in petroleum exploration and production activities and the development of new power plants.

"These problems risk the national security of energy supply, the domestic economy and quality of life," Ms Nantika said. "The ministry initiated the plan recently by setting up a main committee and six subcommittees to carry out the reform plan."

Pornchai Rujiprapa, chairman of the National Energy Reform Committee, said the pilot for the new reform version will start during the remainder of this year, including one-stop service to grant licences for gas operators and power plants.

Many dozens of licence types are granted by several state agencies.

"The plan will encourage third parties to access a liquefied natural gas (LNG) business, shifting from two operators: PTT Plc, the national oil and gas conglomerate, and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand [Egat]," Mr Pornchai said.

Furthermore, the prosumer concept, also known as peer-to-peer power trading, will be deregulated in a bid to support electricity generation by communities and private power purchase agreements.

Under the plan, a new building energy code will be enforced so that every large building must comply with energy saving and higher efficient energy consumption practices to receive licences.

The policymakers plan to shift from cooking gas in the transport sector to compressed natural gas for widespread consumption.

"The energy sector represents 20% of the country's economic value," Mr Pornchai said. "If any aspects are suffering, we carry out reforms in order to maintain economic drive."

Lertrat Ratanavanich, deputy chairman of the National Energy Reform Committee, said the reform plan in the long run consists of the fourth phase of massive petrochemical investment in the Eastern Economic Corridor scheme, renewable energy promotion, electrical vehicles and encouragement of energy storage systems.

"For renewables, solar rooftops and waste-to-energy power plants are set for further deregulation under the reform plan," Gen Lertrat said. "Moreover, integration of state power utilities into a single structure that will subsume Egat, the Metropolitan Electricity Authority and the Provincial Electricity Authority is being planned."

Gen Lertrat said many megaprojects have been scrapped or delayed because of continued protests from non-governmental groups and local communities, including biomass and waste-to-energy projects.

Manoon Siriwan, an energy expert, said energy literacy campaigns should be carried out to educate people and companies on the importance of energy security and renewable power.

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