Egat risks lawsuit if Krabi bidding plan goes ahead

Construction News

Rangsit University professor Smith Tungkasmit and Prof Rapee Sagarik

Opponents of coal plant want impact on environment assessed before builder is selected

THE Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) and Energy Ministry could face legal action if they proceed with plans to launch a bidding process to find a company to build a coal-fired power plant in Krabi.

Stop Global Warming Association president Srisuwan Janya said yesterday he planned to sue Egat and the ministry if the bidding process starts.

“This action [Egat’s bid] is clearly illegal, so I’ll join forces with the Protect Andaman from Coal Network to file a lawsuit with the Administrative Court. I have already been collecting evidence to use against the accused side,” he said.

Srisuwan was backed by academics, who said that Egat’s plan to call for bids from firms to build the coal plant before the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the project is contravened the constitution. The bidding was originally scheduled for today, but has been delayed by two weeks.

Decharut Sukkumnoed, a professor at Kasetsart University’s Faculty of Economics, noted that according to Section 67 of the interim constitution the project cannot proceed before the EIA and an Environmental Health Impact Assessment have been done. So, Egat would be breaking the law, if they went ahead with the bidding. “The bid would also indirectly force the EIA to pass because Egat can claim that they have already finished the bidding and it would affect the contract with construction firm that wins,” he said.

Srisuwan said the prime minister had warned on Monday that electricity fees would rise if no new power plants were built, but he said people do not oppose the construction of new power plants – they oppose the use of coal as the source of energy.

“Why does the PM still insist on using coal even when it is dirty and polluted, when we have many alternative sources of energy to use?” he said.

Yesterday, Prayut stressed that the bidding was just the first stage of preparation and people should not worry. “There are procedures until the project is accepted and it is not easy to pass. If we keep worry on every matter, we cannot do anything,” the PM said.

He said the South need more power plants and that alternative sources of power were not good options as it was not clear that they could supply power to the system regularly.

“If power is short and electricity costs high, who will take the responsibility? If they don’t want the power plant, so be it, but they have to accept costly power fees. I am ready to comply with everything but don’t complain if there is a lack of power,” he said.

The PM also warned coal protesters to be aware that the Public Gathering Act will be enforced next month.

Decharut noted that even if the power plant is built, electricity cost would rise because people would have to subsidise the cost of power plant construction. The cost of building a power plant was about Bt49.5 billion or around Bt62 million per megawatt of power it will generate, which he said was expensive, as the cost was usually Bt50 million per megawatt.

Sasin Chalermlarp, secretary general of the Seub Nakhasathien Foundation, also raised doubts about the quality of coal and coal supply. In a note on his Facebook page, Sasin said the new Krabi coal-fired power plant would have to pay expensive prices for the coal it used.

“The Krabi coal-fired power plant is meant to use high-quality coal which can produce of up to 5,000 kilo-calories of energy per kilogram, have less ash, less sulphur emissions and have less than 30 per cent of moisture. But such high-quality coal stock is low in Indonesia now. Furthermore, Japan, South Korea and other rich countries want to buy the high-quality coal as well,” Sasin said.

“We have less chance of getting the high-quality coal regularly as the richer countries will get more coal than us and we have to buy [coal] from far-away Australia, which will increase the transportation cost,” he said.

His suggestion was supported by Chariya Senpong, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, who said Krabi could be totally powered by renewable energy in as little as three years, if stakeholders work together, she said.

Yesterday, a protest continued for a second day outside Government House against the coal plant in Krabi. Local villagers said they have three demands for the PM – to call off both EIA studies, and the bid to find a builder for the power plant, and for a committee to be set up to review the project that includes all stakeholders.

Local villagers fear the coal plant and transportation pier will destroy the tourism, which is central to economy.