Energy-saving campaigns set for jump-start

Energy-saving campaigns set for jump-start

Policy promotions drawing SME interest

Solar panels are installed on the roof of Thammasat University Hospital. PATTANAPONG HIRUNARD
Solar panels are installed on the roof of Thammasat University Hospital. PATTANAPONG HIRUNARD

Energy analysts and business operators expect investment in energy conservation activities and energy efficiency campaigns to start flourishing again next year.

The hope is that promotions from energy policymakers will drive market demand.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are interested in energy efficiency promotions, while large companies have already invested in cutting energy consumption costs, said Hin Navawongse, vice-chairman for the Institute of Industrial Energy.

Massive flooding in 2011 and political turmoil during 2013-14 distracted SMEs from these campaigns, he said.

One positive sign is the increased budget for the state-controlled Energy Conservation Fund of 10 billion baht for fiscal 2019, which started this month. The new budget is larger than last fiscal year's 6 billion baht.

Established in 1992, the fund promotes energy conservation activities and greater energy efficiency through soft loans, grants, subsidies, scholarships and advance payments. This includes subsidy programmes for solar rooftop installation and construction of electric vehicle charging stations.

The fund is one tool for policymakers to cut energy consumption by 30% by 2036, some 56,142 kilotonnes of oil equivalent, in line with the National Alternative Energy Development Plan for 2015-36.

Mr Hin said the fund will be more dynamic in 2019, thanks to rising demand from the private sector.

Under the Federation of Thai Industries, the Institute of Industrial Energy will serve as a matchmaker for businesses, energy service providers and the fund.

"More competitive solar and biomass power costs have attracted many investors to start developing these renewable power projects," Mr Hin said.

Attaporn Rojanarak, president of the Thai Energy Service Company Association (Thai Esco), said better economic sentiment in the country will beef up SME investment in small power projects.

For small power generation, high growth will resume after a decade-long slump.

"Investors are concerned about energy bills," Mr Attaporn said. "They are reluctant to make investments that break even."

He said the investment for energy-saving equipment and machines will increase significantly, as well as for old factories and buildings that are renovated for more efficient energy consumption with new lighting systems, air conditioners and boilers.

Thai Esco is a non-profit group that provides a broad range of energy solutions, including design and implementation of energy-saving projects, retrofitting, energy conservation, energy infrastructure outsourcing, power generation, energy supply and risk management.

Thai Esco consists of 63 local companies.

Rising demand is expected to be further augmented by the enforcement of the Building Energy Code (BEC), under which the licensing for new buildings that must follow the regulations on energy savings are detailed.

From 2019, buildings that have an area over 10,000 square metres must comply with BEC regulations before construction under the Building Control Act of 1992.

Buildings with 5,000-9,999 sq m must begin to comply in 2020, and buildings with 2,000-4,999 sq m must start in 2021.

"The policymakers expect 100 new large buildings to be developed next year, mostly for mixed-use projects, modern trade and department stores," Mr Attaporn said.

The Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency will revise the state budget allocation to facilitate Thai Esco's services for state agencies.

Komol Buaket, the department's director, said Thai Esco's work with state agencies will be completed in early 2019.

By the department's count, about 840 state-owned buildings across the country have a large area and high energy consumption.

Large state-owned buildings include hospitals, city halls and universities.

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