EARTH Thailand

Final decision expected today on Krabi coal-fired power plant

The Nation 17 February 2017 | PRATCH RUJIVANAROM

EGAT insists diverse energy portfolio is needed, overriding environmental issues.

THE FINAL decision on the Krabi coal-fired power plant will be made today amid an uproar about the value of the plant and Thailand’s future energy policy.

After two years of conflict over the construction of the plant in the resource-rich province, the Energy Policy and Planning Office (EPPO) committee is scheduled to announce a decision today.

Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) governor Kornrasit Pakchotanon said he hoped the outcome will be in his organisation’s favour, as the country urgently needed the plant to ensure the stability of power generation.

“If the Krabi coal-fired power plant project is rejected, we will have to admit it and develop a new gas power plant elsewhere in the South. The power stability of our country is at stake and we need a new fossil-fuel power plant to ensure that there will not be power shortages in the future,” Kornrasit said, adding that the South had the highest risk of generation shortfalls nationwide.

However, he said that a proposed gas power plant would not be as good as the coal-fired plan because the price of gas was unstable and could rise sharply within a short period of time. The price of coal is more stable, he said, which would allow cheaper electricity in the future.

“We can save up to Bt6 billion per year if we use coal. Moreover, Thailand would still use coal in a very small proportion, only 22 per cent compared to 66 per cent from gas. Moreover, we use less coal than many other developed countries,” he said.

“It is essential to ensure power stability by using fossil fuels because renewable energies such as biomass, solar and wind power cannot generate power stably. If we have power stability, our economy can grow and benefit everyone.”

Meanwhile, leading energy expert Prasart Meetam argued that power stability in the South could be achieved by promoting small biomass power plants.

“Biomass power plants in the South could generate power up to 300 days per year from methane, a byproduct from palm oil production, and each plant has a capacity to produce 8.5 megawatts of electricity,” Prasart said.

He said there were more than 30 small biomass power plants in Krabi that could produce enough power for the province, while the cost of electricity produced from biomass was getting cheaper every year. He added that the country could ensure power stability with renewable energies.

“I agree that a coal-fired power plant can produce cheap electricity, but it will be at a very expensive cost for the environment and the well-being of local people because coal is very polluting and produces a large amount of greenhouse gases, which will worsen climate change and affect everyone on the planet,” he said.

He also said Thailand’s power reserves of 31 per cent were sufficient compared to the suggested reserves of 15 per cent.

“A very high power reserve will unnecessary increase the cost of electricity, because we have to pay the operational costs for the electricity that we do not use,” he said.

However, Kornrasit said that high power reserves were necessary to ensure power stability and prevent blackouts in the case of unexpected events when one or more power plants could not operate.

As the EPPO committee, chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, considers the future of the Krabi plant today, an opposition group from Krabi will gather at Government House to protest and call for the project to be cancelled.