Power crisis looms without lower use

Construction News

Bangkok and other densely populated cities could face massive power outages in the near future if Thais do not start saving energy now while opposing construction of huge new power plants.

Sethaput Suthiwart-narueput, an executive vice-president and the chief economist at Siam Commercial Bank’s Economic Intelligence Center (EIC), said energy demand by the commercial sector is expected to double over the next decade, while in the transport sector it will increase 1.5 times, particularly for air transport.

Such a forecast means Thailand will very likely suffer an energy crisis in the near future as people consume more energy than is produced, he said.

Mr Sethaput said the energy sector is thus facing a big challenge in the search for new energy sources that can meet demand, particularly amid protests against major new power plants.

The government’s price control policy for liquefied petroleum gas is only distorting market mechanisms and does not encourage saving energy, he said. “That means if Thais don’t start saving energy right now, they’ll surely experience massive power blackouts and brownouts,” said Mr Sethaput.

A brownout is a drop in the voltage of the electrical power supply. The term comes from the dimming experienced by lighting when the voltage sags.

A blackout refers to the complete loss of power to an area and is the most severe form of power outage that can occur. Outages may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few weeks depending on the nature of the blackout and the configuration of the electrical network.

Mr Sethaput said the best way to prevent such massive outages is for people to start saving energy now if they are going to remain reluctant to allow construction of major new power plants, as the outlook is very uncertain for small alternative fuel plants and the raw materials they would need to generate power.

Changing air-conditioners is one way to save energy, he said. If enough people switched from a No. 3-rated energy-saving machine to a No. 5, the need would be eliminated for one 800-megawatt power plant worth 20 billion baht.

No. 3 air-conditioners now command an 80-90% market share, while No. 5 units have just 10-20%.

But Mr Sethaput said changing air-conditioners is a household expense that would pay for itself in 10 years.

Metinee Jongsaliswang, head of research at the EIC, said cleaning air-conditioners every six months can also save 500 baht worth of energy per unit or up to 2.5 billion baht for all households possessing them. That would reduce energy consumption by an estimated 400 MW, equal to half the output of a large power plant costing 10 billion baht to build.

The household sector consumes about 60% of Thailand‘s energy consumption and so will play a significant role in averting any energy crisis, she said.

Ms Metinee said that sector’s energy use is forecast to increase by 4% each year from 2009-20, higher than the 3.5% growth rate for the sector over the past decade and outpacing projected growth in energy production.

Source: http://www.bangkokpost.com/business/economics/208031/power-crisis-looms-without-lower-use

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