A closer look at the new energy plan
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A closer look at the new energy plan

EXPLAINER: Authorities are expected to forward the scheme for approval, but some companies think it doesn't go far enough to meet climate goals

A floating solar farm with a capacity of 45MW operated by Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand in a reservoir at Sirindhorn Dam in Ubon Ratchathani province. Egat plans to install more floating solar farms at its reservoirs.
A floating solar farm with a capacity of 45MW operated by Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand in a reservoir at Sirindhorn Dam in Ubon Ratchathani province. Egat plans to install more floating solar farms at its reservoirs.

The revised version of the power development plan (PDP), which went through a week-long public hearing ending on June 19, is ready to be forwarded for approval by energy authorities, who expect to implement the plan within this year.

The plan is expected to pave a clearer path for Thailand to shift towards cleaner energy, central to government efforts to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Thailand announced in 2021 at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow it would be more aggressive in addressing climate change, striving to reach carbon neutrality, a balance between carbon dioxide emissions and absorption, by 2050.

Explainer explores the contents of the new PDP and whether it can help Thailand achieve its goal of becoming a carbon-neutral country.

Q: What are the highlights of the 2024 version of the PDP?

Greater use of renewable energy, better power supply management and a fresh attempt to adopt nuclear energy are emphasised in the new PDP.

The plan, intended for use from 2024 to 2037, is part of the national energy plan, the country's blueprint for energy management that includes the alternative energy development plan, the energy efficiency plan, the oil plan and the gas plan.

Other plans are in various stages of public hearings or consideration.

Businesses and households are scheduled to be asked to air their views on the national energy plan, after which it is sent for approval this year to the National Energy Policy Council, chaired by Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.

Under the new PDP, the proportion of renewable energy is set to increase to 51% of the total by 2037, up from 20% last year, while gas will make up 41%, a decline from 57% in 2023.

Coal is expected to account for 7% by 2037, a significant drop from 20% last year, with the remaining 1% coming from nuclear energy and new energy solutions to reduce fossil fuel usage and save electricity.

Most of the additional renewable power is projected to come from solar, with contributions from wind, biomass, biogas, floating solar panels, waste-to-energy projects, mini-hydropower plants, geothermal power and renewable electricity imported from neighbouring countries.

Roughly 5% of gas fuel will be replaced by hydrogen, with this proportion set to increase to 20% between 2035 and 2037, said Veerapat Kiatfuengfoo, director-general of the Energy Policy and Planning Office (Eppo).

Authorities have yet to decide on whether to use blue hydrogen, which is natural gas-based hydrogen production with carbon capture and storage, or green hydrogen, which is produced by using electricity made from renewable energy to split water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen.

According to the PDP, Thailand's total electricity supply is expected to reach 112,400 megawatts in 13 years, up from 53,868MW last year, which had most of the electricity produced from fossil fuels.

The PDP is using the loss of load expectation (LOLE) method to better manage the power supply. The LOLE estimates how many hours of electricity supply cannot meet actual demand in a year.

Using more clean energy is worthwhile, but it raises concerns over intermittent output from the sun and wind, which are determined by weather patterns.

The LOLE method is suitable for higher use of renewable resources such as solar and wind to generate electricity as their power supply is monitored hourly, according to the Eppo.

Mr Veerapat said the new PDP set a ceiling for carbon dioxide emissions from the power generation sector at 41.5 million tonnes in 2050, down from a target of 100 million tonnes in 2025 and 101 million tonnes in 2020.

Q: Is the new renewable proportion target adequate?

Many Thai energy companies caution the target is inadequate if Thailand wants to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

In the new PDP, the proportion for coal and gas used for power generation is 48%, which is still high and may be insufficient to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, said energy companies at the public hearing for the PDP.

The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) wants authorities to promote more electricity generation from solar energy, biomass and biogas.

The development cost of a solar power generation facility with an energy storage system is falling and the power tariff for this facility is currently 2.8 baht per kilowatt-hour, which is lower than the rate for electricity produced by gas-fired power plants, said Natee Sithiprasasana, chairman of the FTI's Renewable Energy Industry Club.

Authorities should also promote biomass and biogas to support efforts to reduce greenhouse gases because raw materials and equipment to make these two fuels are abundant in Thailand, said Mr Natee.

Speaking in a separate interview with the Bangkok Post outside the public hearing, Tanachai Bunditvorapoom, chief executive of SET-listed Absolute Clean Energy, said the government should consider increasing the renewable energy proportion.

Thailand wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector, but similar efforts in other sectors are unclear, which means the country needs to increase the reduction target in the PDP, he said.

According to Mr Tanachai, the renewables scheme, overseen by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), is a good initiative, but it is insufficient to help Thailand reach its 2050 goal.

The auction of renewable power development projects under the first phase of the scheme, with power generation capacity of 5.2 gigawatts, already took place.

The ERC wants to auction more projects this year under a second phase with a capacity of 3.6GW.

At the public hearing, Sarat Prakobchart, deputy director-general of the Eppo, said the government is trying to make a large reduction in the fossil fuel proportion, but it still depends on this type of conventional energy to ensure a stable supply of electricity.

Authorities need to think about the costs of using various types of energy to control the power tariff, he said.

Q: Should nuclear energy development be part of the 2024 PDP?

Nuclear fuel has the potential to be an alternative energy for Thailand because it is inexpensive to generate and radioactive elements are available, said energy officials.

Authorities want the country to consider using small modular reactor (SMR) technology, which refers to a reactor with power generation capacity of up to 300MW per module.

Mr Sarat said a plan to use SMR as an alternative source of clean energy should be studied this year, with its location likely to be in the Northeast or South of the country.

Nuclear power plants could increase clean power usage in Thailand as the cost of power production per unit is quite low, said Mr Veerapat.

This type of energy can contribute to national power security because of the availability of uranium from many countries, he said.

Distributors of uranium include Canada, France, the US, Uzbekistan and South Africa.

Under the new PDP, SMR should be developed between 2036 and 2037, said Mr Veerapat.

Any nuclear power plan is required to pass a public hearing because it is a very contentious issue in Thailand.

Nuclear energy was mentioned in the 2010 PDP, as the authorities proposed a nuclear power project with a total capacity of 2,000MW set to start operation in either 2020 or 2021.

However, the project was removed from the PDP in 2011 after the Fukushima incident when a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear reactor meltdown and radiation leak at Japan's coastal nuclear facility in March of that year.

Global Power Synergy Plc (GPSC), the power generation arm of PTT Plc, is interested in SMR technology and is eager to know whether it suits Thailand.

The company earlier announced a venture with Denmark-based nuclear energy developer Seaborg Technologies to study SMR technology. The study is expected to take four years.

According to Worawat Pitayasiri, president and chief executive of GPSC, Seaborg Technologies is committed to delivering clean and safe power generation to address the increasing global demand for sustainable energy.

He said the collaboration focuses on learning and the exchange of technological knowledge in order to make an informed decision regarding a potential new SMR project in Thailand.

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