Thailand to face April energy crisis?

Feb. 19, 2013 at 1:41 PM
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BANGKOK, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- Thailand could face power supply crisis in April, the country's energy minister said.

While the government is working on a plan to deal with an imminent power shortage because of an expected disruption of natural gas supplies from Myanmar, the ministry may still need to declare an "energy emergency situation," Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisarn said in a report by the state-run National News Bureau of Thailand.

Each year Thailand's gas supply from Myanmar's Yadana field is halted for pipeline maintenance during Songkran, or New Year, when less gas is consumed.

But this year the closure will begin April 4, before the April 12-15 holidays.

The Yadana field shutdown will cut off a daily supply of 1 billion cubic feet of gas, affecting the operations of all six power plants in western Thailand with a combined capacity of 6,000 megawatts.

Pongsak said his ministry will meet with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand about how to increase the country's electricity reserve, including seeking additional cheap power sources such as coal as a back-up. He will also ask Myanmar to move the date of the pipeline maintenance closer to the Songkran holidays.

Egat head Sutas Patamasiriwat said Thailand's electricity consumption is expected to peak at 27,000 megawatts in April, compared to 26,000 megawatts last April.

While partial blackouts are a possibility in April, Sutas said there wouldn't be a nationwide blackout.

Still, he urged consumers to turn off electrical appliances 1 p.m.-3 p.m. from April 4-12.

Thailand relies on fossil fuels for more than 80 percent of the country's total energy consumption but, as its economy continues to grow, natural gas has replaced some oil demand.

The Thai government projects natural gas demand to climb to 2.5 trillion cubic feet per year by 2022, growing 1.5 percent per year if gas-fired power generation continues to be the dominant fuel.

Conservationists argue that the planned disruption for pipeline maintenance won't result in a power crisis for the country because the gas supply from Myanmar represents just one-fourth of Thailand's total supply.

"If the shortage of supply from Myanmar could create a crisis as the minister claims, there would be a serious problem in our national energy system," Witoon Permpongsacharoen, director of the Mekong Energy and Ecology Network, was quoted as saying by The Nation newspaper.

And Jintana Kaewkhao, leader of the Ban Krut Conservation Group, said Thailand's energy minister was exploiting fears of a power shortage to build support for the government's plan to build more coal-fired power plants.

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