Co-ops seek lucky draw for solar power grid plan

Co-ops seek lucky draw for solar power grid plan

Solar power panels are erected at a solar farm project in Samut Sakhon. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Solar power panels are erected at a solar farm project in Samut Sakhon. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

Agriculture cooperatives nationwide will submit a petition to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha Tuesday asking the government to use a lucky draw to select solar farm projects which will supply electricity to the national power grid, instead of bidding as proposed.

Patipol Keturatanang, chairman of Na Bon Agricultural Cooperatives in Nakhon Si Thammarat, said the cooperation will submit the petition via the government's public service centre at Government House.

He said the petition will ask the government to draw lots to select on-ground solar farm projects which are eligible to sell electricity to the state power grid.

He said the Energy Policy and Planning Office (EPPO) has proposed a change of method to bidding for the second round of purchases, after earlier approving the drawing of lots in the first round. A group of agriculture cooperatives submitted a letter of protest to the EPPO on Jan 25. However, the agency said it was just the opinion of the minority.

As a result, about 2,000 agriculture cooperatives nationwide have signed the petition opposing the EPPO's proposal, said Mr Patipol. "The proposal to open bids for solar farm power purchases will end up barring agricultural cooperatives from participating," said Mr Patipol.

Under a Cooperative Promotion Department regulation, he said, agricultural cooperatives can only grant a concession to solar farm operators to use their land to run solar farms on 25-year contracts. But under the bidding criteria, if approved, those who join bidding must be owners and investors of solar farm projects, which would rule out agriculture cooperatives, as few fall into that category.

In August 2014, the EPPO announced plans to support solar power generation by purchasing solar power from various sources including solar farm projects of 576 megawatts, small-sized rooftop solar power panels of 69.36 megawatts, and solar power for local government organisations and agricultural cooperatives of 800 megawatts.

For local government organisations and agricultural cooperatives in the second round, it is 516 megawatts. In the first round last year, those meeting the qualifications were selected through a lucky draw.

Praphon Wongtharua, director-general of the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency, said the National Energy Policy Committee will meet on Friday to discuss the issue. No decision has yet been made whether a bidding process will be adopted for the second round.

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