Friday, July 29, 2011

Formulate a long-term strategy for energy security

Formulate a long-term strategy for energy security
By The Nation
Published on June 30, 2011

The country needs an effective, well- considered management plan to prevent accidents and ensure a safe, reliable, sustainable power supply

Thai-MarriageThailand should further explore alternative energy, especially environmentally friendly sources, with the recent leak from a natural gas pipeline off Thailand's coast serving as a warning that an energy crisis could strike if the country does not adopt a proper strategy.
The leak in PTT's gas pipeline has affected the country's natural gas supplies. PTT, Thailand's largest energy company, said earlier this week that the leak had reduced natural gas supply by 660 million cubic feet per day, from a total of 4.4 billion cubic feet per day. The leak has affected gas delivery to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) and its main gas separation plant, PTT said.

In response to the leak, the Energy Ministry has implemented an emergency plan to prevent power shortages. But a more sustainable long-term energy plan should be devised urgently.

At present, Thailand is heavily dependent on natural gas. As much as 70 per cent of the country's total electricity generation is derived from natural gas. The concern over a possible energy crisis is thus legitimate after the leak in the pipe that connects one of PTT's main pipelines in the Gulf with its Platong field. In the aftermath of the incident, Egat now plans to increase power production using fuel oil and hydro-electric sources to offset the reduced natural gas supplies.

While Thailand may still have to depend heavily on natural gas sources, the relevant agencies involved should further explore alternative sources of energy to prevent disruption and blackouts should another leak in the pipeline occur in the future.

Agencies involved should begin a serious effort to explore the advantages and disadvantages of each type of alternative energy source, such as wind or solar power, to find out what source generation will best be able to help meet Thailand's ever-increasing needs. The evaluations should obviously determine which sources of energy are the most economical and environmentally desirable.

Although politicians have long talked about the exploration of alternative energy sources, they need to do much more to bring these ideas to fruition.

His Majesty the King has for a long time pointed out the importance of renewable energy sources. But so far the relevant agencies involved, even the general public, have not fully heeded his advice. It's time to do so, to explore the potential.

An important issue is the impact of energy generation on our environment and whether we have in place appropriate prevention plans to prevent damage. As recent incidents have shown, energy generation and environmental protection must co-exist together. Power plants and transmission facilities need proper maintenance and their safety measures cannot be compromised. The radiation leaks at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan serve as a glaring example of the importance of precautionary measures. Japan is known to be a world leader in clean technology but the devastation caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima plant shows that accidents can be beyond our control. However, the damage can be minimised with the proper precautionary measures in place.

We hope that the PTT leak will serve as a lesson for the government and all of us on the importance of energy security and the options that we have in mitigating damage and supply risk. It's time for the government and its agencies to craft an effective energy and resource management plan. Thailand's geography and its background as an agricultural nation must be taken into account to prevent possible damage from unsuitable power generation on our landscape and way of life.

The alternative is to continue with our intransigent attitude and continue to implement inadequate defensive reactions whenever accidents happen.

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