Clean, green energy

Clean, green energy

Somruedee Chaimongkol, chief executive of Banpu Plc, has led staff to craft a new clean look for Banpu since her rise to the top job in 2015.

The non-oil energy conglomerate is determined to transform itself into a greener and smarter company over the next five years after seeing coal sales dominate its portfolio for almost four decades. It recently announced that a Smart Energy for Sustainability campaign will take centre stage in its business direction from this year.

The company wants to position itself as a developer and operator of clean power and advanced energy solutions. "In the long term, we will change our portfolio, having clean energy and energy technology take up more than half of our businesses," said Ms Somruedee.

She joined Banpu in 1983, the same year the firm was founded. It was originally a coal supplier for tobacco processing operators, but gradually changed its focus, becoming a major energy firm with a range of businesses.

In 2000, the company began to expand its business overseas, becoming a coal miner and trader across the Asia-Pacific. Ms Somruedee played a key role in strengthening Banpu financially when she led the finance department in 2001 and became chief financial officer in 2006.

Her work was widely recognised, with awards, including Best CFO, granted to her by Asian finance polls and magazines.

In 2016, Banpu decided to set up a spin-off power generation firm, Banpu Power, which was also later listed in the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

Under Ms Somruedee's leadership during 2016 and 2018, Banpu and Banpu Power diversified into the rooftop solar panel business, energy storage systems, electric vehicles (EVs) and vehicle-hailing application development.

Banpu also acquired shale gas production assets in the US -- the Marcellus shale basin in Pennsylvania and the Barnett shale basin in Texas.

In October last year, Banpu decided to invest US$30.8 million (1.3 billion baht) in a natural gas production facility in the Barnett shale field. The investment put the company in the top 20 of the largest gas producers by volume in the US.

Natural gas is more environmentally friendly than other types of fossil-based fuels.

Among these businesses, Banpu is most attracted to clean energy development. "We are seeing a global trend in clean energy resources and are developing the technology to capture it," Ms Somruedee said.

Last year, Banpu added 657 megawatts to its renewable energy portfolio across Asia. It completed the construction of a 1.3-gigawatt SLG thermal power plant in China, developed five ''smart'' cities in Thailand and traded 280 gigawatts per hour of electricity under the micro grid scheme.

To fuel its growth in energy technologies, Banpu and Banpu Power co-established Banpu Next Co as their technological arm to support the EV business.

In February, 2019, it acquired shares in Singapore-based Durapower Holdings, a lithium-ion battery maker. It also acquired a 21.5% stake in FOMM Corporation, a Japanese developer of compact EVs.

Banpu teamed up with local startup Urban Mobility Technology to develop the Haup Car application for EV ride-sharing and the MovMi application for electric tuktuks.

The company also launched an electric ferry project serving tourists in Phangnga Bay in southern Thailand.

Decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitalisation are the three D principles which Banpu is adopting in its move to become an international, versatile energy provider, Ms Somruedee said.

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