More domestic renewable energy generation, regional ties can help Thailand’s green transition

 Around 54% of the energy was generated through natural gas, while 17% was done using coal and lignite

By Maitreyi Karthik, Rajiv Ratna Panda
Published: Friday 24 March 2023
A promising policy and regulatory framework are necessary to draw investments and develop clean, green, and sustainable energy. Representative photo: iStock.

The global energy market is moving from fossil fuel-based resources to clean energy resources. Thailand is no exception to it. The government has announced a series of steps that it will be taking toward the clean energy transition. 

Thailand’s energy mix currently consists of fossil fuels such as natural gas, refined petroleum products, and renewables such as solar, wind, biomass, and hydropower.

Also read: Energy storage has a vital role to play in the green transition of BIMSTEC countries

The energy generation is dominated by natural gas, followed by coal and lignite. For the year 2021, around 54 per cent of the energy was generated through natural gas, while 17 per cent of the energy generation was done using coal and lignite.

At the same time, renewables contributed around 22 per cent to power generation. Interestingly, after natural gas, coal and lignite, cross-border electricity import is around 33 per cent, which is very significant.

As around 60 per cent of electricity is generated locally through natural gas, diversification of the power system supply can be seen as an approach towards improved energy security of the country.


A graph showing Thailand’s energy mix. Source: Data from Thailand Energy Statistic-2022.

With the depletion of domestic gas supplies and limited options for investment in the sector, liquefied natural gas holds promise for supplying Thailand’s energy requirements in the coming years.

The country’s installed capacity was around 47 gigawatts (GW) in 2022. The installed capacity does not include small power producers of less than 10 megawatts (MW) and other distributed generations.

The peak demand for electricity in 2022 was 32 GW. This suggests a wide parity between the installed capacity figures and the peak demand. The Power Development Plan (PDP) 2018 Revision 1 (2018-2037) envisions improving the generating capacity from 46 GW to 77 GW by 2037.

With the increase in the nation’s energy consumption, there will be a need for new capacity additions. The country consumed 197 GW of electricity in 2022. Thus, PDP has set a target of 56 GW of new capacity additions by 2037.

Thailand imports electricity from Laos and Malaysia and exports electricity to neighbouring utilities in Cambodia. In 2016, Thailand established a memorandum of understanding with Laos to purchase electricity from 9,000 MW of generation capacity over the following two decades to help meet Thailand’s energy demand.

Read more: India’s offshore wind energy: A roadmap for getting started

As per New Power Generation (2018-2037), imported hydropower could be 5,857 MW. Thailand’s electricity import has jumped from 25.5 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2019 to 35.4 TWh in 2022.

Thailand also facilitates regional energy cooperation, the Laos-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore Power Integration Project is the flagship project of the ASEAN Power Grid. It is the first multilateral cross-border electric trade in ASEAN, transmitting up to 100 MW of hydropower-based electricity from Laos to Singapore via Thailand and Malaysia.

Thailand’s export of electricity also increased from 1.1 TWh in 2017 to two TWh in 2022, with a peak export of 2.8 TWh in 2019. Thailand can become a power hub for ASEAN as it shares land borders with Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Myanmar.

The recent PDP aims to increase the solar capacity to 14.7 GW by 2037. Out of this, 2.7 GW of electricity would be through floating solar projects, which would be operated by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. At the same time, the rest would be a mix of ground-mounted and rooftop installations.

Offshore solar technology is in the initial and growing stage and shows a great future as it is not impacted by issues related to land use.

Numerous assessments have been done by the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency on the potential of wind power in the country.

The wind profile of the country is less encouraging than the solar. Offshore wind could be an additional resource to tap through technological advancement and with the appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks in place.

Solar and wind energy pose drawbacks in the form of intermittency of the energy generated, but there are storage technologies to ensure a smooth and continuous flow of energy. There has been a minimal deployment of grid-scale storage in Thailand at present.

Read more: Full coverage: State of renewable energy in India

Carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCU) are a carbon capture technology aimed at reducing emissions in which the captured CO2 is stored underground or diverted for utilisation in other applications.

Even though direct air capture technology has gained prominence recently, it is still a comparatively expensive technology to remove carbon from the atmosphere due to low CO2 in ambient conditions.

Another technology on the block is bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, in which electricity is generated from biogas or biomass along with carbon dioxide capture at a source where its concentrations are much higher. This technology holds promise in generating negative CO2 emissions.

With the large amounts of agricultural waste available, generating electricity using such sources and technologies as CCUs would help create negative emissions for such power plants, thereby helping Thailand achieve its emission reduction targets.

To support the country’s clean energy transitions, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) announced the third-party access codes for electricity network systems to increase the power market competition and limit retail electricity prices.

Low power prices would be beneficial to consumers. This would also allow energy procurement using renewable or clean energy sources. Purchasing power, primarily using renewables, would help the companies that have adopted net-zero commitments and the renewable energy developers.

The ERC manages the promotion of non-conventional sources in Thailand. It recently announced regulations regarding the feed-in tariff (FiT)for electricity sales by renewable energy projects to the electricity authority until 2030. FiT is a policy developed to support renewable energy sources by providing a guaranteed above the market price for producers

A table showing feed-in- tariff for electricity sales. Source: WFW

Thailand is blessed with good solar radiation due to the country's relatively inexpensive land area, large coastline, and favourable location; the region is well suited for the development of a green hydrogen market.

Green hydrogen is produced when the water molecule is split into hydrogen and oxygen using electrolysis. When electricity is produced through renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, or hydro, it is termed ‘green hydrogen.’ 

The country itself does not boast of a significant hydrogen market, but it has the potential to generate green hydrogen for its domestic consumption and export.

The Alternative Energy Development Plan, one of the country’s five masterplans for energy development, has hydrogen as part of the alternative fuels section with a target of ten Kilo tonnes of oil equivalent by 2036.

An increased share of domestic renewable energy generation and enhanced regional energy cooperation supplemented through clean cross-border electricity trade would help decrease the dependency on fossil fuels import, assuaging geopolitical and supply risks and transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

A promising policy and regulatory framework are necessary to draw investments and develop clean, green, and sustainable energy for a greater cause of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 7 of energy access at affordable prices.

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