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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        15  February 2011

Thailand begins alternative energy island projects

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Thailand's first low-carbon and eco-friendly community is taking shape on Phaluai island in Surat Thani.

Fish are dried inside a solar-powered enclosure, one of many facilities designed for Koh Phaluai in the Gulf of Thailand, which is attempting to become a zero-fossil fuel use area. Thailand aims for renewable energy to contribute20 percent of its total power consumption by 2020, but it accounts for only 5 percent now.

Koh Phaluai, 20 kilometres west of Koh Samui, is among six islands nationwide chosen by the Thailand Energy Ministry, energy-related state enterprises and local administrations to be developed as green energy communities. Others include Koh Kut in Trat, Koh Tao in Surat Thani and Koh Nang Kham in Phatthalung.

A green island with zero fossil fuel use is a goal of the Energy Ministry and the local administration to create a low-carbon society, and they have spent 52 million baht so far to make the island independent of fossil fuel use.

The island's development will be based on the principles of community participation, sufficiency in energy resources, maintaining it as an attractive tourist spot, with an appropriate population level and energy usage, given the difficulty of bringing electricity to the remote site.

The island is renowned for sightseeing for dolphins, butterflies and hornbills in its primitive atmosphere. It has no resorts or hotels.

Only 438 people, or 180 families, now live on the island, mostly engaged in fishing and agriculture.

They previously relied on diesel-powered generators, which cost 10 times more than alternative power sources.

These families have shifted to solar cells as their main electricity resources, and 80 diesel vehicles and 90 boats will be converted to biodiesel and battery-operated vehicles. "This area will be the demonstration site to study self-sufficiency development for low-carbon villages," said Energy Minster Wannarat Channukul.

The local community has a committee to oversee 23 projects such as wind power generators, a water reservoir and check dams. Roads have also been upgraded to develop it into an ecology tourist area.

Over the longer term, the Agriculture Ministry plans to develop organic farming and revive defunct coconut farming. Energy crop plantations are also a possibility.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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