Consider the alternatives

Consider the alternatives

The continuing determination of government and energy planners to stick with plans for the Krabi province coal-fired power plant is now developing into a crisis. It is a self-made crisis. Even the most stubborn advocates must admit that plans for coal to make electricity in the South are out of date, out of touch and lacking reality. Instead of turning the problem into a drama, authorities need to get busy with alternative plans.

Energy security from this date forward must include alternative, renewable and sustainable sources. Any energy policy which ignores or tries to get around this is not credible. Thailand has the means and public motivation to get behind such 21st century planning and programmes. Indeed, a government which promotes the very idea of "Thailand 4.0" while stubbornly insisting on coal-fired energy isn't serious about fourth-generation development.

As this newspaper reported in a lengthy business section analysis on Monday, the Krabi coal-fired plant is "on ice indefinitely".

There is no chance Krabi people or environmentally aware groups throughout the country will accept coal-consuming generation stations. Not only Krabi residents but Songkhla people have made it clear that coal as an energy fuel is out. Having been cheated and bypassed already, they will clearly never accept any environmental impact assessment.

The government and its chief energy operator, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) objects to all other options.

Instead, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Egat executives should be on the side of the Krabi activists. The opposition to energy created by coal is not obstructionism; it is an opportunity.

The government has already negotiated two separate deals for selling power to Myanmar. The claim that power supplies are reaching a crisis point seems more of a bargaining chip than hard fact. The long and loud complaints against people of the South are the stonewalling. Let authorities show some imaginative planning, beginning with coordination with people directly involved.

Generally speaking, the government has had to be dragged into considering alternative power sources.

Egat still seems to look at energy from solar, wind, waves and waste in a suspicious way. Small alternative energy producers face convoluted bureaucracy and tangled regulations before being allowed to inject power into the national grid.

And most officials appeared to show reluctance to accept that individuals could become power producers and give or sell their excess to the national grid.

There are signs that authorities are going to be realistic. Egat is making contingency plans for offshore gas storage.

Plans for the coal-fired plant are likely to be replaced with the construction of another gas-fired plant in Krabi. Like coal, gas will have to be imported, although better planning for exploration and exploitation of gas fields, onshore and offshore, will be to the country's benefit.

But the true challenge is to encourage fresh and "green" energy. The people's sector in Krabi has come up with a research study, the so-called green power development plan, which demonstrates the potential of renewables as a main energy source for the province. Unfortunately, the plan, with the lofty aim of making the province depend 100% on green energy, received a lukewarm reaction from energy planners.

Some foreign experts have said Thailand's reluctance to harvest the sun is near-scandalous. Wind, waste and wave power are barely functioning, compared with the potential.

These technologies are still being developed, even as they produce power -- small amounts in Thailand, more abroad. But that is exactly the challenge. Mainstream energy policy cannot run the government's plan for a modern future.

Using the same old dirty and unsustainable energy plans will produce the same old Thailand 2.0 the government promises to escape. Moving the country ahead requires the gumption to tackle technology and harness it for the national good.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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