Energy Ministry downplays need for southern power plants
The government says construction of new large-scale power plants in southern Thailand is unlikely over the next five years, arguing that existing power plants are capable of meeting demand.
Energy Minister Siri Jirapongphan said on Thursday that there is no need to make a decision to build large power plants in the South, with the government instead promoting the construction of small biogas plants to supply power to the region.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) has also been tasked with building a 500-kilovolt grid to link the central provinces to Surat Thani and Chumphon, and another grid to link existing power plants in Chana, Songkhla and Khanom, Nakhon Sri Thammarat to provinces along the Andaman Sea, including Phuket and Krabi.
The government wants to revise the power development plan (2015-36) to conform with real demand in each region, particularly after the advent of the government’s flagship Eastern Economic Corridor.
“The existing power plants still have enough capacity to handle the peak load of 2,600-2,700MW in 14 southern provinces,” said Mr Siri, who signed an agreement to shelve the construction of two coal-fired power plants in southern Thailand on Tuesday alongside protest leaders.
He said the ministry will cancel the environmental and health impact assessments (EHIAs).
After withdrawing the EHIAs, Egat must conduct a strategic environmental assessment to evaluate whether the two coal-fired power plants are appropriate for Krabi and Songkhla.
Egat agreed to conduct the report after getting approval from energy policymakers and protesters.
The assessment must be completed within nine months, after which a final decision on the project will be made.
An EHIA of the Krabi project was conducted in 2012, while one for the Songkhla project was conducted in 2014. Construction of the latter was expected to begin by year-end.
In December, Mr Siri decided to postpone the projects’ start date by an additional three years, saying further study was needed to understand the impact on local communities.
The Krabi power plant’s EHIA was finalised in early 2016 and was ready to receive an official construction start date from the government. But Egat was ordered to revise the EHIA in April 2016.
In a related development, Mr Siri said the government is likely to call the auctions for the Bongkot and Erawan gas blocks in the Gulf of Thailand in late April.
He said the ministry will propose terms of reference in early April for the two blocks to the National Energy Policy Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
The concessions of the Bongkot and Erawan gas blocks are due to expire in 2022 and 2023, respectively.
Erawan and Bongkot combined produce an average of 2,000 million standard cubic feet of gas per day or 40% of Thailand’s gas demand.