ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Common sense energy policy reaches Asean
By David Swartzentruber
Six Asean countries have agreed to coordinate their energy demand management, the result of Japan's nuclear crisis and the anticipated difficulties in building new power plants.
Regulators from six Asean countries - Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore and Bruneihave agreed that member countries should use peak demand management measures to cope with the increase in regional power consumption.
These policies have been successful in several developed nations. For example, users in member countries could enter contracts with power agencies to minimize daily peak consumption reinforced with financial incentives.
The chairman of Thailand's regulatory body on the energy sector, Direk Lawansiri, said after the Asean energy regulators' meeting that because national power-production plans must be reliable and secure, every country needs to have an adequate power-reserve capacity.
In the case of Thailand, the national power-reserve capacity is about 22 per cent, which is relatively high, but this ratio would be reduced in coming years if new power plants could not be built on schedule.
According to the country's Power Development Programme (PDP), several large-scale power plants - each of 1,000 megawatts - are needed to meet electricity demand during peak usage hours, especially in the summer.
Second, Asean governments should provide subsidies to industries and businesses that use electricity during off-peak hours so as to reduce the governments' massive financial burden of having to invest in power-reserve capacities.
"Building new power plants generally faces strong opposition from residents and environmentalists, while the investment costs are massive, so we need to lower the taxpayers' burden and increase the financial incentives for users to boost their efficiency," he said. Dr Somporn Chongkam, a member of the committee tasked with conducting the feasibility study of Thailand's nuclear-power-plant project, admitted it would be more difficult to implement the project in Thailand after Japan's nuclear-plant crisis.
Thailand plans to build a total of five nuclear power plants with a combined capacity of 5,000MW from 2020 onwards to manage its growing power demand.
Besides Thailand, other Asean countries such as Vietnam and Indonesia are planning to build nuclear power plants, while Malaysia is conducting a nuclear-power study.
Vietnam's plan is to build four nuclear plants with a combined capacity of 4,000MW, while Indonesia's plan is similar. All these schemes have a timetable comparable to that of Thailand.
According Somporn, the former executive director of Thailand's Institute of Nuclear Technology, there are lessons to be learned from the Japanese crisis that would be a major case study for other countries, especially in terms of site selection and precautions to deal with earthquakes and tsunamis.
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