Energy Minister Pongsak Ruktapongpisal believes the government’s Bt2-trillion infrastructure mega-projects, which will support future growth of communities and cities along the new high-speed-rail route, will push up demand for electricity substantially.
The Energy Ministry is drafting an electricity-generation development plan from now to 2030 that will differ from the Power Development Plan 2010 as the demand for power is expected to surge to 70,000 megawatts by 2030, driven by the various mega-projects, including the transport-infrastructure programme and the Bt350-billion water-management scheme.
The high-speed railway alone will need additional power-generating plants to produce 1,200MW for each route.
Of the 70,000MW power consumption projected by 2030, 60,000MW will be for general consumption, and 10,000MW is reserve power. Meanwhile 20,000MW will be cut from the current 33,000MW generation capacity as obsolete power plants are decommissioned.
Hence PDP 2013 requires creating new power capacity of 60,000MW, while alternative energy sources will be inadequate to meet Thailand’s future power needs. Moreover, the cost of producing power from alternative energy is still higher than that of conventional power plants. Power from a solar plant costs about Bt10-Bt20 per unit compared with only Bt3.75 for a conventional plant.
Power produced by a hydro-electricity plant in Laos costs only Bt2.30-Bt2.40 per unit, while that from a plant fuelled by sulphur-free coal costs only Bt2.70-Bt2.80 per unit, and from a nuclear plant Bt3. However, Thailand cannot build new hydroelectric power plants, and nuclear energy is still not widely accepted by the public. Hence building more clean-coal-fuelled plants is the only way for now to ensure adequate electricity supply to support the country’s future needs and to maintain its regional competitiveness in terms of power-generating costs, Pongsak said.
If Thailand does not switch from natural gas to lower-cost coal to fuel power plants, it will struggle to compete with other countries, the energy minister said.