Thailand’s electricity sector

I have been struggling somewhat with finding consistent information on what is actually installed and operational in Thailand.  The information I’ve found on the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s (EGAT) website and in their annual reports seems to be at conflict with my previous post, referencing mainly a report done by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) using 2011 figures.  Recognising this discrepancy right from the get-go, this post looks at what Thailand’s electricity picture looks like, purely from what EGAT has reported in 2014 and 2015.

The majority of Thailand’s installed capacity has been built by independent power producers (IPPs) or small power producers (SPPs).  In addition, a further 9% of the countries capacity is through agreements with Laos and Malaysia.  Most of EGAT’s self-built power stations are combined cycle gas facilities (21.6%), with thermal (coal – 9.4%) and hydro-power (8.9) making up most of the rest.  Diesel and renewables feature, but barely.

What’s not featured here are the very small power producers (VSPPs).  I’m not sure how much the VSPP projects total.  The IISD’s report indicates that these projects totalled nearly 6,000MW in 2011.  More than the SPPs in 2015 according to EGAT.  (I really am starting to doubt that report…  The VSPP source referenced has a site totally in Thai, with Thai reports, so I cannot dig any further.)

Thailand_elec_capacity_2015

Because of the reliance on similar fuel types, the total electricity generation values by generator corresponds very closely to the installed capacity.  EGAT, IPPs and SPPs are all mainly reliant on natural gas and coal.  SPPs also have a fairly high reliance on biomass, with over 10% of their power generated by biomass facilities.  All facilities with high capacity factors.

Thailand_elec_tot_gen_2014

In terms of total electricity generation, EGAT’s figures confirm that the vast majority of locally generated electricity is powered by natural gas.  This makes up 72% of all electricity generated in 2014.  Coal comes in second , with renewables mainly represented by hydro and biomass powered facilities.

Thailand_elec_dom_gen_2014

This map (the interactive version found on Enipedia) gives you an idea of how widely distributed Thailand’s generating facilities are.  You can see that there’s a lot of work to do in identifying and categorising the majority of these facilities, but it does serve to show that while there’s a clustering around Bangkok, there’s not one region of Thailand which dominates the electricity sector.  Interesting.

Thailand_power_gen_map_enipedia

Thailand’s renewable energy incentives

Thailand’s electricity sector is very interesting.  I found a great Thailand case study report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development which outlines the overall market, and the renewable incentives that were put in place.  It’s an easy read, but is from 2013 and most of the data is up until 2011 (so is a bit dated).

What it does do is outline how the market works, who the main role-players are, and what kind of incentives have been available for renewables project.  In this post I have tried to distill some of the main points of the report.  If you are interested in this at all, I suggest giving the full report a read.

Thailand’s electricity has a total installed capacity of nearly 32GW.  Most of this is made up of natural gas and coal based facilities.  What is interesting is that the Thai government made the decision to go for private sector investment in the electricity sector after the reserve margin fell “from 43 per cent in 1985 to 13 per cent in 1989.”  They therefore opted to engage with Independent Power Producers (IPPs), Small Power Producers (SPPs) and Very Small Power Producers (VSPPs).  As at 2011, the total capacity from these three independent sources was over 28GW.  Nearly 90% of their total capacity was from independent generators.

These generators sell electricity to a single buyer.  IPPs and SPPs sell to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) who sells on to the distributors.  VSPP’s sell directly to the distributors.

In the context of all this, Thailand established renewable energy targets through their Power Development Plan.  The 2010 version of this plan has overall targets set at 10GW of renewables capacity by 2030.  Installed capacity as at 2011 was just over 2GW.  Made up mostly of Biomass facilities (1.79GW).

Feed in tariffs

To achieve this target, several financial or fiscal incentives have been put in place.  The most notable of which is the Adder Feed in Tariff.  Each type of technology has its own rate.  This rate is then added to the base rate payable for electricity (i.e. that would be paid to an IPP if they were using non-renewable fuels), and the total amount payable is then determined.  The most generous rate was for solar (THB8/kWh = USD0.27/kWh in 2011).  This, reportedly, resulted in a massive uptake of solar projects, which was unexpected.  They have since announced a drop in the rate for solar to THB6.5/kWh and subsequently temporarily stopped procuring solar power.

The adder rate seems to be fairly generous, and there have been concerns expressed over the additional cost to the end consumer that has resulted.  Because the rates are fixed these facilities are naturally not competing on price.  Projects seem to be incredibly profitable, which is a bit concerning for government.

To address this, the nature of the FiT incentive will be changing going forward.   I have seen it written that they will be changing the scheme away from adder incentives to a standard feed in tariff or will be moving to model the system on the European FiT structure.

Other financial incentives

Feed in tariffs don’t seem to be the only financial option available to renewable energy developers.  A dedicated fun (ENCON) has been established to provide capital, grants or other mechanisms.  The main ones referenced in the report are:

  • ESCO funds set up – which have made equity or saving funds available.  “Under the first phase, nine projects were awarded financial support amounting to THB 235.2 million [±USD7.8m]. This has stimulated more than THB3,388 million [±USD113m] in renewable energy investment.”
  • Tax incentives/exemptions
  • Investment grants – “The maximum investment grant is about 20–50 per cent for capital investment, 25–100 per cent for MSW and 30 per cent for solar hot water, with a maximum capital grant of THB 50 million [±USD1.67m] per project.
  • Revolving debt facilities (with the engagement of private banks)
  • Access to carbon credits

Overall, the extent of planning and support for renewables in Thailand is significantly more advanced than what has been observed in other countries in the region (with the exception of Singapore).  While they may be adjusting their policies and mechanisms in response to the uptake from developers and the available funding, it is encouraging to see the level of support for renewable energy developers.  The report indicates that there are limited wind reserves in Thailand.  While the PDP indicates targets for wind totalling nearly 2GW of the total 10GW, it is therefore expected that biomass and solar will dominate the renewable energy scene.  Particularly if they address the tariff concerns relating to solar projects.

Resources:

For more on the PDP go here.
For “an assessment of Thailand’s feed-in tariff program” read more here.
For info on how the VSPP tariff is shifting, read more here.

Some photos from Vietnam

Here are some of my pics from my time in Vietnam.

The electrical infrastructure was, for the most part, much neater than that in the Philippines.
The electrical infrastructure was, for the most part, much neater than that in the Philippines.
This is a country that runs on bikes.  In Hoi An and Hue I saw some of the country on the back of a bike and it is the best way to get around and get a real feel for the landscapes and people.
This is a country that runs on bikes. In Hoi An and Hue I saw some of the country on the back of a bike and it is the best way to get around and get a real feel for the landscapes and people.
Co-working spaces and coffee shops were the name of the game, and a lot of my posts came to you from spaces like Work Saigon, pictured here.
Co-working spaces and coffee shops were the name of the game, and a lot of my posts came to you from spaces like Work Saigon, pictured here.
Cooking on charcoal.  The street food was so delicious and affordable.
Cooking on charcoal. The street food was so delicious and affordable.
Let it not be said that the Vietnamese are afraid of LEDs.
Let it not be said that the Vietnamese are afraid of LEDs.
Ending on a bit of a sad note - responsible tourism has a massive role to play in keeping this country beautiful.  These little paper boxes with a candle can be bought in Hoi An.  They are in the hands of the purchaser for all of 30 seconds, before being placed in a river.  Non-biodegradable, they collect and drift down the river.  The mess in the morning was distressing.  All pretending to be part of a cultural celebration that they know nothing about.
Ending on a bit of a sad note – responsible tourism has a massive role to play in keeping this country beautiful. These little paper boxes with a candle can be bought in Hoi An. They are in the hands of the purchaser for all of 30 seconds, before being placed in a river. Non-biodegradable, they collect and drift down the river. The mess in the morning was distressing. All pretending to be part of a cultural celebration that they know nothing about.

ASEAN energy trends – reflecting after five months in the region

So far on my travels I have been to Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and I am now in Thailand.  I thought it might be a good time to stop and reflect on some of the energy trends in the countries that I have visited, and to give some thought to what I may find in Thailand.  All of these countries form part of the ASEAN group – the Association of South Eastern Asian Nations.

The IEA, in their energy outlook report for 2013 for the ASEAN group, put the following graph together.  I can tell you that from my experiences in these countries, I’d tend to agree with their findings.  The first thing I noticed upon arriving in Bangkok, after spending over two months in Vietnam after two months in the Philippines, was that there is definitely more money in Thailand.  Singapore is on such a different scale that it should almost not be included in the graph.  I suppose it could be the exception that proves the rule (or trend) in the region.

ASEAN electricity demand per cap vs income [Source: IEA]
ASEAN electricity demand per cap vs income, 2011 [Source: IEA]
I am yet to travel through any rural parts of Thailand, but from what I’ve seen in the city, there does seem to be more prolific use of electricity here.  I will keep an eye out for any rolling brownouts or load-shedding (of which I saw a LOT in the Philippines and less in Vietnam).

It’s interesting to look at these graphs and stats after travelling in the region for a while.  Here’s another one showing how the wealthier countries have pretty much got universal access to electricity, and that those countries that are in the middle region are still fairly reliant on biomass consumption, even if they have access to electricity.

ASEAN_Countries_Elec_Access

Many of the street food vendors in Vietnam (delicious by the way) were using charcoal under their carts to cook their food.  So you see this in action even in the cities.

I have had a look at the info available on the World Bank’s Database, and have pulled out some graphics on some key energy related stats for the region.   What they show is a general trend for increasing CO2 emissions, increasing energy consumption and a consistent or increasing reliance on energy imports.  Renewables are increasing, slowly, for all countries other than the Philippines, where the noticeable drop in renewables is balanced by a sharp increase in coal consumption).

CO2_kt CO2_perGDP CO2_tonnes_per_cap Elec_coal elec_kwh Elec_renewables Energy_imports Energy_use