Private firms can develop solar rooftops in Thailand

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Energy policymakers plan to give the private sector better access to the state solar rooftop programme in a bid to promote the use of solar power.

The programme for businesses will be liberalised, allowing private companies to apply for solar rooftop development licences with a combined generating capacity of 100 megawatts, said Energy Minister Anantaporn Kanjanarat.

However, companies will still be barred from selling power back to utilities.

Gen Anantaporn said the Energy Regulatory Commission will issue a solar rooftop letter of intent to free up projects generating 100MW in April.

The private sector previously had no right to develop any generating business.

However, to liberalise the system, the government will allow the two major electricity utilities to allow private firms to apply for licences to develop solar rooftop projects gradually as pilot projects.

The Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) will announce licensing conditions for private firms that want to develop solar projects in its service area of Bangkok, Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan, while other areas will be supervised by the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA).

According to the plan, the PEA and MEA each have quotas of 50MW for solar rooftop projects.

The pilot project will study the techniques of smart grids and net metering.

A source said retailers and hypermarkets were expected to join the projects because they have peak power demand during the daytime, which is suitable for solar rooftops, and can cut their operation costs effectively.

Meanwhile, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) is ready to cope with possible gas disruption during the maintenance period of gas fields in Myanmar, expected to be this weekend.

Suthon Boonprasong, the deputy Egat governor who oversees transmission systems, said gas from Myanmar’s Badamyar field, a gas production unit of Yadana Gas Block, is expected to be disrupted as well as other gas resources at Yatakun and Zawtika.

The three gas resources account for around 25% of Thailand’s gas demand or 1,100 standard cubic feet per day.

The gas disruption could affect operations of Egat power plants and private power operators with a combined generating capacity of around 6,000MW. That accounts for around 20% of Thailand’s generating system.

However, Mr Suthon said the authority planned to use extra power-generating capacity of small gas-fired power producers to help offset falls in generating capacity caused by the gas disruption to help prevent any blackouts.

Egat will also negotiate with Laos’s authority in order to purchase more power from its hydropower plant if necessary.