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Vol. 24 No.2
April - June 2007

ISSN 0125-0159

Editor’s Note
International Forum
Thailand Moving with ASEAN Towards a Caring and Sharing Society
Prayong Ronnarong: Prime Example of a Community Leader
BOI and Its Important Roles in Promoting Investors in Global Business Arenas
Special Feature
China - ASEAN Cooperation Program
Human Security
Protecting the Rights of Immigrant Workers
Foreign Relations
The Second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge: A New Link between Thailand and Its Close Neighbors
Trends of Energy Use and Development in Thailand
Thai Touch
Ko Phra Thong: A Savanna Paradise

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Trends of Energy Use and Development in Thailand

Endowed with natural resources that can be used as raw materials for biofuels, Thailand has great potential for developing alternative sources of energy to ensure energy sustainability in the long run. The promotion of the use and development of alternative fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, is related to the Sufficiency Economy philosophy, advocated by His Majesty the King, since these biofuels are domestically produced and can have a direct result in reducing the country’s oil imports. About 80 percent of oil consumed in Thailand is imported.

Ethanol can be produced from such crops as sugar cane, tapioca, potato, wheat, and rice, while biodiesel can be obtained from such agricultural produce as oil palm, coconut, soybean, rice husks, sunflower seeds, and physic nuts.

Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand told a group of foreign journalists and diplomats about the Government’s policy to give a major boost to the use and development of renewable energy, which would help improve the environment as well. The group was joining a foreign press tour of the southern province of Krabi, organized by the Foreign Office of the Government Public Relations Department on 9 and 10 June 2007, to observe alternative energy projects.

Minister Piyasvasti said that more and more alternative energy sources are being developed in Thailand, mainly for electricity generation, to replace gasoline and diesel, which are fossil fuels, and for household use, such as cooking, which are connected with the community-based renewable energy program. Today, the share of renewable energy for power generation, excluding that of large hydropower projects, stands at five percent of the total electricity generation in Thailand. The Government has set a target to increase the share to seven or eight percent in the next five years. These renewable energy sources are from agricultural resources, such as rice husks, bagasse, and wood chips. In order to promote renewable energy, the Government has agreed to buy electricity from small and mini producers, who would receive fairly high prices. Special incentives have been offered to investors in wind power generation.

Minister Piyasvasti cited the southern border province of Pattani as one of the best areas for developing wind energy. A wind farm is likely to be built soon, probably in nearby Surat Thani province. The Government offers a better price for wind energy producers than other producers of renewable energy. He said, “We also provide additional incentives to facilities using biomass and wastewater.” A number of projects to turn waste into renewable energy are feasible, and many of them have already been constructed.

Referring to gasoline and diesel substitution, Minister Piyasvasti said that people who used gasoline had been urged to shift to gasohol and those using diesel to shift to biodiesel. On 1 April 2008, the Government will enforce the mandatory use of “B2,” consisting of a mix of two percent biodiesel and 98 percent diesel. After making B2 mandatory, it will later make “B5” mandatory, when there is a sufficient supply of methyl ester.

He said that, with support from the Government, the retail price of gasohol, a mix of five percent ethanol and 95 percent gasoline, is 10 percent lower than that of gasoline. The use of gasohol is now on the rise and becoming more popular. “The target that we set at the moment is to replace 20 percent of gasoline and diesel consumption by biofuels and natural gas within five years. I believe that we will be able to achieve this target, even before that.” Minister Piyasvasti also said, “At least 80 percent of Thailand’s population of cars that use gasoline can switch to gasohol.”

As for the local community energy renewable program, the Ministry of Energy is promoting the use of efficient cooking stoves, charcoal, and wood chips as a fuel type for cooking. The promotion is leading to the use of natural resources available locally for the maximum benefit. So local people do not need to turn to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is quite expensive for them. Over the past few years, the Ministry has placed an emphasis on expanding small community-based facilities to produce biodiesel for use in communities.

In remote areas where villagers do not have electricity, the emphasis will be placed on the promotion of solar energy. In fact, solar energy has been used non-commercially in Thailand for centuries in salt production from seawater and sun-drying of paddy rice. The sun provides free, clean, and unlimited energy.

Minister Piyasvasti told the group, “Si Boya Island in Krabi province is an example of a place where there is no electricity. So you’ll see solar cells in operation there. But of course, once the grid is extended to Si Boya in two years’ time, we will probably have to take away the solar cells there and move them to other remote islands elsewhere.”

He also said, “In the case of Thailand, I think that it is inevitable that we have to look at a nuclear option.” The Government has included nuclear energy in its long-term power development plan. Under this plan, it will take seven years to prepare nuclear energy and another six years to build nuclear power plants. So Thailand might go nuclear by 2020.

During his dinner talk on the topic “Direction for Alternative Energy in Thailand” on June 9 in Krabi, Minister Piyasvasti stated that the present Thai government had decided to open up opportunities for power generation from coal again, after investment in the project was suspended during the 1997 economic crisis. The announcement was made in April 2007 and an initial target has been set at generating 500 megawatts of electricity.

Story: Chamnong Pakaworawuth
Photos: Boonchoo Siritanyanon

Foreign Office
The Government Public Relations Department

Rama VI Road, Soi 30, Bangkok 10400, Thailand
Tel : (66-2) 618-2323 ext. 1700 Fax : (66-2) 618-2358 E-mail : prforeign@gmail.com