Government must shift energy policy

Thailand's solar energy market projected to be worth Bt2.5 billion in 2005 and Bt6.6 billion in 2010.

Feature story - March 4, 2003
Environmental group Greenpeace called on new Thai Energy Minister Prommin Lertsuridej to review the existing Energy Development Plan, which plots the country's energy strategies and investments, and embrace an energy policy which promotes clean renewable sources to reduce Thailand's dependence on environmentally disastrous fossil fuels.

"This administration must display its political will. Relocating the planned power plants from Prachuab Kiri Khan to other locations does not diminish Thailand's dependence on fossil fuels, the major cause of global warming. The government must officially cancel the projects and chart an energy policy that takes advantage of the abundance of solar and wind power in our country in order to further our economic growth without causing damages to local communities and the environment," said Penrapee Noparumpa, Climate and Energy campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

According to Greenpeace, the Thai government can efficiently and effectively phase out fossil fuel based energy (such as coal, oil and gas) in favour of renewables (like wind, solar and biomass). The environmental group is demanding that the Thai government commit to a 10 percent renewable energy target immediately, and increase that target to 20 percent by the year 2020.

"There are reports that Thailand has an energy surplus of 30 percent. If that's the case, this is the right time to shift our energy focus because we have a lot of energy reserves. The phase out of fossil fuels also means vastly reduced imports and decreasing dependency on volatile world energy prices," Penrapee added.

Many global organizations and companies have already cited Thailand as one of the places suitable for wind and solar energy production. In recent years, Thailand has seen the unprecedented growth in renewable energy projects.

The largest of these is in Maehongson, where the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand(EGAT) is building 4,750 kilowatt solar generating plants in five districts. By March 2004, residents of the province will start harvesting 500 kilowatts of solar energy. Once completed Maehongson (and Thailand) will become largest solar power producer in the whole of Asia, according to EGAT.

At present, Thailand already has an installed solar generating capacity of 5 megawatts. Upon completion of the Maehongson project, Thailand will have a total of 10 megawatts of solar energy capacity, which points that this technology is very much relevant and viable - if only given proper attention and strategy.

Companies have also expressed interest in Thailand's enormous wind capacity and have started exploration, especially in the southern provinces.

In short, Thailand has all the ingredients for clean, sustainable and renewable energy. It is now the government's responsibility to exploit these infinite resources and turn them into economic, social and environmental advantages.

Thailand's Annual Solar Market to 2020

YearMWMWhtCO2Mkt Volumes in millions USJobs in retailing installation and other services

20001.001,300780530

200516.4148,05328,83258502201058.60295,845177,5971531,8052015178.821,077,316646,3903425,5082020545.723,462,1782,077,30774516,808Total 2000 til 20202604.6215,946,1789,567,737

Source: Solar Generation, a global report on solar energy by Greenpeace and European Photovoltaic Industry Association

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