Solar picnic a taste of Thailand's renewable energy future

Feature story - August 23, 2002
Greenpeace today demanded the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) immediately overturn all approvals for new fossil fuel power stations, and to take up the challenge to support renewables. But the demand came with a sweetener - a solar-powered picnic for the company's employees.

Greenpeace activists from Bangkok and an international crew from the ship MV Arctic Sunrise hung a 45m banner on a railway bridge over Bangkok's Chao Phraya river, reading "Thailand go renewable " in both English and Thai. Another group of 23 activists served cool drinks chilled by solar power to EGAT employees, while waiting to meet the company's governor early this morning.

"We will be asking the governor to use Greenpeace's report 'Positive Energy Choices' launched yesterday in Bangkok, as a blueprint for Thailand's future energy use," said Athena Ballesteros, Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigns manager, speaking before the meeting. "The report shows that 35% of Thailand's electricity demand could be met with renewable energy by 2020 - even if consumption doubles."

Greenpeace is also demanding that the energy authority abandons two coal-fired power stations planned for the Thai province of Prachuab Khiri Khan. The 734 MW Bo Nok coal plant is proposed to be built by Gulf and US company Edison while the 1400 MW Ban Krut plant is proposed to be developed by Union Power, Hongkong Electric, Tomen and other Japanese corporations. The Ban Krut plant would run on coal imported from Australia.

"We want the Prime Minister to categorically state that these coal plants are dead," said Ballesteros."The people of Prachuab Khiri Khan have campaigned against these for 8 years. They have made their choice - to reject dirty energy and embrace renewables."

"Thailand has a choice. It can go down the clean energy path and avoid the mistakes of more developed nations in relying solely on expensive dirty energy technologies such as nuclear, oil and coal. All it takes is strong political will and Thailand could be pioneers of clean energy."

Greenpeace is calling on governments at the Earth Summit to make a commitment to provide affordable renewable energy to the two billion people around the world who live without electricity, to phase out all subsidies to fossil and nuclear fuels, and to ensure that 10% of energy is provided by renewable resources by 2010. Greenpeace is also seeking a commitment that international financial institutions be required to move 20% of their energy investments to clean, renewable energy.

"Our report shows that it is possible to move to renewable energy - even in developing countries," said Ballesteros. "Governments at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg have no excuses now. They must stop pushing the developing world to use fossil fuels and embrace clean energy technology. Climate change is the biggest environmental threat facing the planet and developing countries like Thailand are most vulnerable to its effects on agriculture, livelihoods and major ecosystems."

Today's solar picnic is part of the Greenpeace Choose Positive Energy tour of South East Asia with the ship MV Arctic Sunrise. Throughout the tour, the ship's crew, the staff from the Greenpeace office of Southeast Asia and other Greenpeace offices have worked with local communities in Thailand and the Philippines to fight the development of dirty, polluting energy and promote clean renewable energy.