It will be very different from the situation today (and the last 30 years), where natural gas has made up 65-70% of Thailand’s electricity generation fuel mix. Thailand is turning to imported hydropower and LNG (Liquified Natural Gas), coal, and renewables (wind, solar, and biomass) to replace natural gas because reserves in the Gulf of Thailand will run out in 5-6 years.
The new energy landscape was one of the focus topics of the GE-organized Powering Thailand conference held in Bangkok on September 18. The mix of keynote presentations, panel discussions, and breakout sessions hosted by GE business leaders attracted more than 350 attendees including GE customers and leading sector stakeholders.
Renewables Represent the Future
“Renewable energy represents the future” was one of the key messages expressed by Mr. Pornthape Thunyapongchai, the Chairman of Thailand’s Energy Regulatory Commission in his keynote speech.
Under Thailand’s Power Development Plan, he said Thailand plans to produce 70GW of power by 2036 (nearly double the capacity today) with renewable energy capacity projected to reach 40GW in 2036. The country is also committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25% compared to business as usual levels. Mr Thunyapongchai provides more details about Thailand’s energy ambitions in this clip.
Renewable Ambition in Thailand
Given Thailand’s natural resources, and scale, renewable energy is widely hailed as a robust growth opportunity for the country – however, it must be developed in the context of a wider energy ecosystem.
To achieve the 40GW renewable energy target, Thailand is seeking innovation beyond traditional large-scale power producers. The recent removal of restrictions on selling solar power into the grid opens up new opportunities for citizens to be ‘positive disruptors’ said Dr. Tawarath Sutabutr, Director-General, Energy Policy and Planning Office. during the “Optimizing the energy mix” panel discussion.
Like other markets, a big challenge regarding the development of renewable energy in Thailand is the issue of power availability versus demand. Specifically, if energy generated from wind and solar can meet peak demand reliably to power Thailand’s economy that includes strong agriculture and manufacturing sectors.
While energy storage technologies were discussed at the event, comprehensive, affordable solutions are not yet available today. In the meantime, Thailand will manage peak needs through new power generation fuels and technologies including high-efficiency coal, which will provide a base-load alternative to natural gas. Imported hydro from neighbouring countries like Laos, will also play an important role (imported hydro is targeted to increase from 7% of electricity generation in 2014 to 10-15% by 2026.) Biogas generation is another solution touted.
Guest panellist, Mr Petteri Harkki, MD, Poyry Energy shared his thoughts on Thailand’s leadership on the renewable energy front, and the innovations and ‘next steps’ to build on this success. He said Thailand has been one of the front-runners of renewable and an example for neighbouring markets to follow.
Energy Sector Optimization Offers Potential Multibillion Dollar Savings for Thailand
Digital innovation was another much another hot topic and the focus of the second roundtable discussion - “Navigating digital solutions to support Thailand’s Energy 4.0 plan.” Thailand 4.0 is the government’s all-encompassing strategy, and plan, to accelerate the digital economy and Internet of Things (IoT) readiness throughout the Kingdom.
In energy terms, Massimo Gallizioli, Regional Senior Executive Sales Asia Pacific, GE Steam Power Systems Studies said GE’s Energy Ecosystem portfolio of new power plant and grid technologies, and digital solutions could lead to cost savings of more than $6billion, and a further $2.6billion savings potential through digitally enabled optimization.
He shared more about the potential cost savings and CO2 reduction benefits for Thailand
Look out for more Powering Thailand stories in GE Reports including a look at the digital solutions that could make a difference in Thailand, and a conference review blog from Wouter Van Wersch, President and CEO, GE ASEAN and ANZ.