Thailand urged for new measures to curb energy imports
Thailand needs to devise new measures to curb energy consumption, as rising fuel import to satisfy domestic consumption is widening the country's trade deficit.
Imports in the first month of this year rose sharply in both value and volume, in line with economic growth, which was propelled by the government's stimulus measures including the first-car buyer scheme.
According to a University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce survey on 800 businesses, 45 per cent said electricity was essential for their operations; 20 per cent considered diesel as most important; 15.7 per cent need NGV; 8 per cent LPG; 7 per cent petrol; and 3.5 per cent others.
To Thanavath Phonvichai, director of the university's Economic and Business Forecasting Centre, the survey revealed an alarming fact. Most of the businessmen still consider fossil fuel as the most important source of energy, thanks to the government's subsidies.
Hence, he said, the government should start promoting the use of alternative, clean energy in order to promote the sustainable development of the country.
The survey also found most respondents (35 per cent) want the government to promote the use of alternative energy and biogas, followed by 26 per cent saying the government should focus on energy-saving.
The private sector has also shown concern over the shortage of electricity supply in the coming months. Almost 40 per cent said they had yet to see a clear solution for the expected shortage of energy supplies in April.
They urged the government to closely monitor the import of fuel in upcoming months, especially since the import of energy rose significantly in January.
A source from the industrial sector said Thailand was entering a dangerous period by relying too much on energy imports and advised the government to come up with a proper plan to promote alternative sources and urge people to cut down their usage.
"The first-car scheme has stimulated the import of fuel this year. Thailand will continue to face a huge trade deficit as demand for energy continues to rise. The government's policies do not encourage people to save energy. In fact, the government needs to closely monitor its trade balance, otherwise there will be a higher trade deficit," the source said.
Thailand has been a net energy importer and the Asia-Pacific Energy Research Centre has forecast the demand of energy to rise three-fold by 2035, based on a business-|as-usual approach. If seen on a sector-by-sector basis, the industrial and transport sectors consume 70 per cent of total energy, while the rest comes from residential and commercial sector.
According to the Foreign Trade Department, Thailand recorded a trade deficit of US$5.48 billion in January. In the month, |fuel imports, including crude oil, processed oil and natural gas, rose by 45 per cent year |on year, or 3.8 billion litres in volume. The import value also rose by 42 per cent to $2.74 billion.
In the same month last year, fuel imports also increased by 9 per cent from the same period a year earlier to 2.6 billion litres or 16.4 million barrels in volume. The import value was up by 11 per cent to $1.9 bn.
Throughout last year, total fuel import volume hit nearly 49 billion litres or 308 million barrels last year, up by 5.7 per cent from 2011. In terms of value, that increased by 9 per cent on year to $35.9 billion.