Study says national power supply sufficient

Bangkok Post 4 December 2011


Thailand can meet its future energy needs without any additional hydropower imports or further investment in coal or nuclear energy, a new study shows.

The California-based environmental NGO International Rivers commissioned the study, which was conducted by energy researchers Chuenchom Sangarasri Greacen and Chris Greacen and released yesterday. In it the authors say that Thailand does not need to purchase electricity from the controversial Xayaburi dam on the Mekong River in Laos to meet its domestic energy demands.

The authors analysed the government's current Power Development Plan (PDP 2010) and found that it overestimated power demand over the next 20 years by 13,200 megawatts.

"Not only is power from the Xayaburi dam not needed to meet our future energy needs, but it would be more expensive than alternative options," said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand campaign coordinator for International Rivers.

"The Thai government should immediately cancel its commitment to buy power from Xayaburi and other Mekong mainstream dams and adopt a transparent and participatory process for determining future energy needs," she said.

The 1,260-megawatt Xayaburi dam will be the main item on the agenda for the Mekong River Commission meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia, from Wednesday to Friday.

The hydropower plant project is expected to start generating electricity for Thailand in 2019.

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand will be the sole purchaser of power from the plant.

Ch Karnchang Co is the project developer, with financial support from Thai banks.

Environmental activists have voiced strong opposition to the project, saying it will have a devastating impact on the Mekong and on the livelihoods of those living alongside it.

The governments of countries along the Mekong have differing views on the dam.

Cambodia wants the Lao government to conduct further studies into possible environmental impacts, while Vietnam has said the project should be suspended for 10 years.

Thailand has said the project should be developed only with "strong caution" about its potential environmental impacts.

The study also found Thailand has sufficient excess capacity and more projects in the pipeline to render additional power plants or energy efficiency measures unnecessary until 2017.

Thailand's power sector planning process has significant shortcomings, said Mrs Chuenchom, one of the authors.

A more sensible approach to forecasting future demand, coupled with investment in cleaner and cheaper energy options, would not only result in cheaper electricity bills for consumers, but would also reduce Thailand's emissions of greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants, she said.

"Environmentally destructive projects like Mekong mainstream dams and coal and nuclear plants are simply not needed for Thailand," said the energy expert.

The current PDP should be revised and the process for developing the plan amended to include broader criteria and accountability for the government's energy policy objectives, she said.