Power from Xayaburi Not Needed in Thailand

International Rivers
Saturday, December 3, 2011

Alternative Plan shows Thailand can meet future energy needs with cheaper, cleaner options

Bangkok, Thailand: An Alternative Power Development Plan for Thailand released today shows that Thailand can meet its future energy needs without any additional hydropower imports, and without additional investments in coal or nuclear energy. The plan shows that power from the Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River is not needed to meet Thailand’s future energy needs, and that investment in energy efficiency, renewables and co-generation could lower electricity bills for consumers by 12% by 2030 and avoid investment of US$67 billion (2 trillion baht).

“This study shows that the Thai government is selling its citizens down the river in deals with the Lao government that are not in the best interests of electricity consumers. Not only is power from the Xayaburi Dam not needed to meet our future energy needs, but it will be more expensive than alternative options. A smart energy future is urgently needed. The Thai government should immediately cancel its commitment to buy power from Xayaburi and other Mekong Mainstream dams and adopt a transparent and participatory process for determining future energy needs,” said Pianporn Deetes, Thailand Campaign Coordinator for International Rivers.  

The Alternative Power Development Plan (PDP) was produced by Thai energy experts Chuenchom Sangarasri Greacen and Dr. Chris Greacen. The team analyzed the Thai government’s current Power Development Plan (PDP 2010) and found that future power demand was overestimated by 13,200 megawatts (MW) over the next 20 years, the equivalent of 10 Xayaburi Dams. The authors also found that Thailand has sufficient excess surplus capacity and projects in the pipeline such that no additional power plants or energy efficiency measures are needed until 2017.

“Thailand’s current power sector planning process has significant shortcomings. A more sensible approach to forecasting future demand, coupled with investment in cleaner and cheaper energy options, would not only result in cheaper electricity bills for consumers, but would also reduce Thailand’s emissions of greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants. Environmentally destructive projects like Mekong Mainstream dams, coal and nuclear plants are simply not needed for Thailand,” said Chuenchom Sangarasri Greacen, one of the report’s authors.

The report authors came up with a more realistic demand forecast for 2030 by looking at historical trends over the past 25 years. They found that over the past 20 years, the Thai government's official electricity demand forecasts have consistently over-estimated future power demand, resulting in unnecessary investment and higher bills for consumers. After the demand forecast reduction, the authors found that the power sector still needs an additional 14,387 MW of power by 2030 in order to maintain a 15% reserve margin. The generation sources included in the Alternative PDP are as follows:

  • Projects already under construction and planned renewables and cogeneration are included. This does not include Xayaburi or any other additional imported hydropower.
  • Energy efficiency and demand side management at levels consistent with the Thai Government's 20-year Energy Efficiency Plan – equivalent to savings of 20% of total electricity consumption.
  • 4,800 MW of high-efficiency gas-fired cogeneration. A cogeneration plant utilizes not only the electricity but also the generated heat in industrial or commercial applications, thereby significantly increasing the plant’s efficiency. In contrast, the heat produced in a centralized power plant is typically wasted through cooling towers.
  • Extending the plant life for some existing power plants.

The authors found that the Alternative PDP would result in reductions in carbon dioxide emissions on a per-capita basis of 7.7% in year 2030 compared with a per-capita increase of 75% under the PDP 2010.

“Thailand's Power Development Plan (PDP) illustrates a planning process in crisis, out of touch with historic trends in electricity demand and prescribing far too many power plants of the wrong types,” says Chuenchom Sangarasri Greacen. “The current PDP should be revised and the process for developing the plan amended to include broader criteria and accountability to the government's energy policy objectives. Otherwise Thai citizens could be wasting $3.4 billion a year in investments that are neither desirable nor necessary.”


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