New push for coal-fired power plant in Dawei

Myanmar Times 24 June 2013

By Soe Sandar Oo

That officials and businesses are making another bid to build a coal-fired power plant in Dawei to serve their country’s rising appetitive for electricity, despite having their plans to build one scuppered by Nay Pyi Taw in January 2012 over environmental concerns.

New plans call for the introduction of clean-coal technology, which removes pollutants from the air, Thai officials and executives said. Thai Minister of Energy Pongsak Raktaphongpaisarn was quoted in Thai-language media as saying the country is planning two coal-fired power plants in Myanmar as well as hydroelectric projects that will generate a combined 23,000 megawatts.

He said these are necessary because the country’s demand for electricity will rise more than 50 percent by 2030, to 40,000MW. Thailand is banking on receiving the bulk of new energy from Myanmar, he said.

Thailand’s former energy minister, Piyasawat Ammaranan, said mounting opposition to coal-fired power plants in Thailand is encouraging its government to invest in coal-fired plants in Myanmar.

Kamjorn Vorawongsakul, a senior executive at Thailand’s largest builder of industrial estates, Amata Corporation, agreed. He said the company is eager to build a coal-fired power plant in Myanmar because environmentalists and non-governmental organisations blocked companies from building one in Thailand.

Mr Kamjorn added, however, that no contract to build a coal-fired power plant in Myanmar had been signed. “There is only progress in the recent signing of the agreement of Cooperating in Development of Dawei SEZ and its related project areas, between the Thai and Myanmar governments,” he said. He was referring to the agreement in early June between Nay Pyi Taw and Bangkok to set up a joint-venture firm to develop the massive special economic zone in southern Tanintharyi Region near the border with Thailand.

Mr Kamjorn said Amata was carefully watching the project’s development and had not yet made a decision about investing.

Mr Piyasawat also played down his country’s reliance on Myanmar for energy. Thailand receives only a fraction of its energy from Myanmar, he told a press conference in Bangkok in early June.

The amount is so small that “there was no visible impact on Thailand’s electricity supply when Myanmar stopped exporting gas during the maintenance of the Yadana oil and gas project in April”, he said.

Mr Piyasawat added, however, that the cuts to exports in April sparked debate about energy security in Thailand. Due to alarm expressed in the media, the government decided to encourage greater investment in coal-fired and nuclear power plants, he said, adding that Thailand consumes about 26,000MW of electricity annually and that it plans to invest in the energy sectors of its neighbours.

The Thai government has already signed agreements to buy energy from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia, Mr Piyasawat said.

State-run Thai News Agency reported on June 18 that Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) governor Suthas Patmasiriwat said his agency has studied the feasibility of building a coal-fired power project in Dawei and found that one could generate about 1800MW of electricity. It would be linked to Thailand’s power grid.

A high-ranking official at Myanmar’s Ministry of Electric Power said the ministry had not received a formal proposal for a coal-fired power plant at Dawei, but added that officials are aware of recent media reports quoting EGAT staff about such a plant.

“The ministry will check through every step after a memorandum of understanding is signed to ensure an environmental impact assessment is carried out,” said the official who requested anonymity. “If local communities are dissatisfied the project will not proceed,” he added. Clean-coal plants can benefit Myanmar, particularly Yangon, which relies on hydropower, the official said.

“If Yangon wants to get enough energy for the future, it needs gas turbine and coal-fired power plants.”