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Thailand’s 2024 Energy Plan: Renewables, Nuclear, and Sustainability

In a significant move towards sustainable energy development, Thailand’s Electricity Generating Authority (Egat) has launched a new floating solar farm with a capacity of 45MW at Sirindhorn Dam in Ubon Ratchathani province. This initiative marks the beginning of Egat’s broader strategy to deploy more floating solar farms across its reservoirs, aiming to harness renewable energy sources more efficiently. The revised Power Development Plan (PDP) for 2024, recently subjected to a week-long public hearing until June 19, is now poised for approval by energy authorities, signaling potential implementation later this year.

The new PDP is a pivotal component of Thailand’s national energy strategy, designed to facilitate a transition towards cleaner energy sources, aligning with governmental objectives to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. This commitment was underscored by Thailand’s pledge at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in 2021, where the country set ambitious targets for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

The 2024 PDP outlines a strategic roadmap spanning from 2024 to 2037, emphasizing a substantial increase in renewable energy utilization, enhanced management of power supply, and a renewed exploration into nuclear energy. Under this plan, renewable energy is slated to comprise 51% of Thailand’s total energy mix by 2037, up from 20% in previous years. Conversely, the share of gas is anticipated to decrease to 41%, down from 57% in 2023, while coal usage is projected to diminish to 7%.

Solar energy is expected to lead the charge in expanding renewable capacity, supplemented by wind, biomass, biogas, waste-to-energy initiatives, mini-hydropower plants, geothermal power, and imported renewable electricity from neighboring countries. Additionally, Thailand plans to integrate hydrogen as a viable energy source, aiming to replace approximately 5% of gas fuel with hydrogen by 2035, with plans to increase this proportion to 20% by 2037.

Despite the benefits of increasing renewable energy sources, challenges remain regarding the intermittent nature of solar and wind power, which are contingent upon weather conditions. To address these fluctuations, the PDP employs the Loss of Load Expectation (LOLE) method, a mechanism tailored for managing intermittent power supply, ensuring reliability amidst varying energy outputs.

While the new PDP outlines ambitious targets for renewable energy adoption, stakeholders, including energy companies and industry bodies, have expressed reservations about the plan’s efficacy in achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Critics argue that the current proportion of coal and gas in the energy mix remains high and may impede progress towards emission reduction targets.

The Federation of Thai Industries (FTI) advocates for a more pronounced shift towards solar, biomass, and biogas energy generation, highlighting the declining costs of renewable energy technologies as a compelling factor. Business leaders, such as Natee Sithiprasasana from FTI’s Renewable Energy Industry Club, emphasize the economic viability of solar power coupled with energy storage systems, which currently offer lower tariffs compared to conventional gas-fired plants.

In a controversial move, the 2024 PDP includes provisions for exploring nuclear energy as a potential clean energy alternative. Thai authorities are considering Small Modular Reactor (SMR) technology, envisaging its deployment by 2036-2037 to bolster the country’s energy security and diversify its power generation portfolio. Advocates of nuclear energy cite its cost-effectiveness and global availability of uranium resources as compelling reasons for its inclusion in Thailand’s future energy landscape.

As Thailand moves forward with its revised Power Development Plan for 2024, the nation stands at a crossroads of balancing environmental sustainability with energy security and economic feasibility. The plan’s success hinges on effective implementation strategies, continued public engagement, and adaptive policies that navigate the complexities of a rapidly evolving global energy landscape. With ongoing advancements in renewable technologies and strategic diversification efforts, Thailand remains poised to make significant strides towards achieving its long-term climate and energy objectives.

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