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Thailand focuses on diversification to cut dependence on fossil fuels

Gas-dependent Thailand is diversifying its energy sources to lessen its reliance on fossil fuels, in order to head off an energy shortfall. PEi looks at Thailand’s current power structure and the plans in the pipeline for future power generation.

The electricity sector in Thailand is dominated by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), the main generation and transmission company responsible for supplying the whole country. It is the sole transmission company and buys all power generated by independent power producers (IPPs) and small power producers (SPPs). EGAT sells its power to two state-owned distribution companies, the Metropolitan Electricity Authority, which supplies Bangkok and two neighbouring provinces, and the Provincial Electricity Authority, which distributes to the remainder of the country.

The 3645 MW Ratchaburi gas fired plant in Bangkok – Thailand’s largest power plant
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Private sector involvement in the power sector was introduced in the early 1990s when EGAT set up a private subsidiary, the Electricity Generating Company (EGCO), and sold it a power plant. Shares in EGCO are now mostly in private hands. Since then a number of IPP and SPP projects have been launched, and in 2005 these were responsible for 48.5 per cent of Thailand’s power generation.

Currently, private participation exists only in the electricity generation side, with the Thai government keeping the rest of the value chain under its ownership and control.

EGAT remains the sole purchaser/offtaker of electricity and continues to be responsible for electricity transmission. SPPs, IPPs and privatized generation companies sell electricity to EGAT, which in turn supplies electricity to distributors and some large industry consumers.

SPPs are, however, allowed to sell electricity directly to end-users (typically manufacturing plants in industrial parks). There have been government efforts to restructure EGAT but these have so far been unsuccessful. In June, Bangkok passed a bill that outlaws attempts to privatise state enterprises such as EGAT.

Capacity and generation

Total generating capacity in Thailand in 2006 was 27 788 MW, up from 25 653 MW in 2005. There is also a power link with Malaysia, which has a capacity of 300 MW, and a second link that can import up to 340 MW from two hydropower plants in Laos, which were built to supply most of their power to Thailand.

Thailand’s power generation by source, 2005
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Gross power generation in 2005 was 134 555 GWh, up from 127 978 GWh in 2004. Domestic consumption in 2005 was 120 450 GWh. The largest single source of electricity was from the country’s IPP plants, which provided a total of 51 730 GWh. Thermal plants, mostly gas fired, produced 33 957 GWh and combined-cycle plants a further 23 943 GWh. SPPs provided 13 547 GWh and the country’s hydropower plants generated 5689 GWh.


Under the Thailand Power Development Plan (PDP) 2004-2015 the country will require around 20 GW of additional generating capacity by the end of the plan period. Peak demand is expected to rise from 22 790 MW in 2006 to 28 546 MW in 2010, and reach 37 806 MW and 49 734 MW by 2015 and 2020, respectively.

Thailand’s peak demand predictions to 2020
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Between 2005 and 2010 EGAT will build four new combined-cycle power plants, each with a capacity of 700 MW. Gulf Generation has also be granted approval for a 700 MW plant. Beyond 2010, half of all new capacity will be built by EGAT, according to a 2005 government decision, while the remainder will be open only to IPP companies. During this period, under PDP 2004-2015, a further 18 power plants are to be constructed with a combined capacity of 12.6 GW.

This leaves an estimated shortfall of around 4 GW. A further 920 MW is due to be imported from the Nam Theun 2 hydropower plant in Laos from 2009. A new interconnection with Cambodia is also due to enter service this year, and discussions are underway regarding construction of a transmission link from southern China, via Laos, to Thailand.

Going nuclear and other options

In June, energy minister Piyasavasti Amranand announced that EGAT would build its first nuclear power plant by 2021 to help meet the country’s rising electricity demand.

The 4000 MW nuclear plant is expected to cost $6 billion. Amranand said the cost of producing power at the nuclear power plant would be $0.067 per unit, marginally lower than the $0.068 per unit of the power produced by coal fired power plants.

Thailand has also set a target of producing 8 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2011. A recent study commissioned by the Ministry of Energy has suggested that Thailand could build an additional 2500 MW of renewable capacity by then and 5500 MW by 2016. About 60 per cent of new renewable capacity will be based on biomass.

In 2006, the first results from a study into renewable energy potential in Thailand by the Ministry of Energy’s Energy Planning and Policy Office found that a viable amount of renewable energy could be developed by 2016. These included 1783 MW of wind power, 120 MW of solar power, an additional 283 MW of small hydro capacity, an extra 2747 MW of power from biomass residues – up from the exisiting 2191 MW – and 1298 MW from short rotational crops grown for energy use. There is also an estimated 200 MW of exploitable geothermal resources.