Thailand commits to ambitious ASEAN target; In fresh drive for investments in alternative energy

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ASEAN has set an ambitious target in adopting alternative energy! And Thailand has commit!

Thailand‘s Board of Investment, yesterday, announced its support in alternative energy investment after findings have shown that demand for energy will increase by 39% within 9 years.

That statement comes after an earlier statement by Thailand’s Energy Minister, who said that Thailand’s potential will be highlighted as Asean targets to raise the alternative energy consumption to 15 per cent of total consumption within 2015

  • BOI in Fresh Drive for Investment:

Dr. Atchaka Sibunruang, Secretary General, Thailand Board of Investment, said that the BOI is aware of the importance of alternative energy and its impact on the development of Thailand, so it is one of the country’s priorities. Projects involving alternative energy and renewable energy which are proposed for investment support are therefore entitled to incentives and benefits.

The BOI says: “According to the Ministry of Energy’s estimation, under Alternative Energy Development Plan (AEDP 2012-2021), it has been found that in 2021, the demand for energy in Thailand will increase from 71,728 ktoe (kilo tonnes of oil equivalent) today to 99,838 ktoe, or a 39.19% increase. The Thai government is hoping to push the use of alternative energy and renewable energy to reach 25% of total energy consumption.”

The BOI says: “This is because Thailand has agricultural products that can be used as energy sources such as biomass, biogas, biodiesel and ethanol. Food industries also yield a great amount of byproducts that can be made into energy from waste. Thailand’s natural resources also have great potential for energy generation – the country has the average sunlight energy of 18.2 MJ/m2/day, not to mention the nation’s potential in wind energy. This makes Thailand the right place for alternative energy and renewable energy investment, which will lead to a significant decrease in Greenhouse Gas emission, making Thailand a low-carbon society in the future.”

  • BOI Investment Incentives: 

The BOI has policy to support this type of investment by offering tax incentives and other benefits. For taxation, the BOI is offering tax exemption or reduction for imported machines and materials, and corporate tax exemption or reduction. Incentives in other areas include permission to bring in foreign skills, permission to own land, and foreign currency cash flow. Foreign investors can also hold 100% of the shares.

In details, the BOI is working hard to promote investments in energy-efficient technology: 8 years corporate income tax exemption, in any zone, for: Manufacturing of solar cells, Electricity or steam power generation through the use of alternative energy sources, Manufacturing of energy-saving machinery or renewable energy equipment and machinery, Energy Service Consulting Companies, to provide consulting services regarding the use and/or installation of energy-saving machinery or alternative energy equipment.

  • ASEAN’s Target:

Thailand’s Energy Minister, said “Asean will embrace solar power, wind power, hydropower, geothermal power, biogas and biomass. Thailand’s alternative energy policy would run in the same direction. I’m convinced that Thailand could become a hub,” he said.

At the 29th Asean Ministers on Energy Meeting during Sept 17-21 in Brunei, ASEAN energy ministers agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding with the International Energy Agency, for cooperation in completing the Energy Technology Perspectives 2012 and Technology Prospects on the ASEAN Power Generation Sector. Plus an agreement with eight counterparties – China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, Russia and the US, ASEAN is promised clean-energy technology transfer to help reduce the regional greenhouse gas emission.

Wikipedia says, over the last three years publicly traded alternative energy have been very volatile, with some 2007 returns in excess of 100%, some 2008 returns down 90% or more, and peak-to-trough returns in 2009 again over 100%.[citation needed] In general there are three subsegments of “alternative” energy investment: solar energy, wind energy and hybrid electric vehicles. Alternative energy sources which are renewable, free and have lower carbon emissions than what we have now are wind energy, solar energy, geothermal energy, and bio fuels. Each of these four segments involve very different technologies and investment concerns.

For example, photovoltaic solar energy is based on semiconductor processing and accordingly, benefits from steep cost reductions similar to those realized in the microprocessor industry (i.e., driven by larger scale, higher module efficiency, and improving processing technologies). PV solar energy is perhaps the only energy technology whose electricity generation cost could be reduced by half or more over the next 5 years. Better and more efficient manufacturing process and new technology such as advanced thin film solar cell is a good example of that helps to reduce industry cost.[40]

The economics of solar PV electricity are highly dependent on silicon pricing and even companies whose technologies are based on other materials (e.g., First Solar) are impacted by the balance of supply and demand in the silicon market.[citation needed] In addition, because some companies sell completed solar cells on the open market (e.g., Q-Cells), this creates a low barrier to entry for companies that want to manufacture solar modules, which in turn can create an irrational pricing environment.

In contrast, because wind power has been harnessed for over 100 years, its underlying technology is relatively stable. Its economics are largely determined by siting (e.g., how hard the wind blows and the grid investment requirements) and the prices of steel (the largest component of a wind turbine) and select composites (used for the blades). Because current wind turbines are often in excess of 100 meters high, logistics and a global manufacturing platform are major sources of competitive advantage. These issues and others were explored in a research report by Sanford Bernstein. Some of its key conclusions are shown here.[26]

  • Popular Alternative Energy (Wikipedia) 

Main article: Solar Power

The primary obstacle that is preventing the large scale implementation of solar powered energy generation is the inefficiency of current solar technology. Currently, photovoltaic (PV) panels only have the ability to convert around 16% of the sunlight that hits them into electricity. [49] At this rate, many experts believe that solar energy is not efficient enough to be economically sustainable given the cost to produce the panels themselves.

Both Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), have heavily funded solar research programs. The NREL solar program has a budget of around $75 million [50] and develops research projects in the areas of photovoltaic (PV) technology, solar thermal energy, and solar radiation. [51] The budget for Sandia’s solar division is unknown, however it accounts for a significant percentage of the laboratory’s $2.4 billion budget. [52]

Several academic programs have focused on solar research in recent years. The Solar Energy Research Center (SERC) at University of North Carolina (UNC) has the sole purpose of developing cost effective solar technology. In 2008, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed a method to store solar energy by using it to produce hydrogen fuel from water. [53]Such research is targeted at addressing the obstacle that solar development faces of storing energy for use during nighttime hours when the sun is not shining.

In February of 2012, North Carolina-based Semprius Inc., a solar development company backed by German corporation Siemens, announced that they had developed the world’s most efficient solar panel. The company claims that the prototype converts 33.9% of the sunlight that hits it to electricity, more than double the previous high-end conversion rate. [54]

Main article: Wind Energy

Wind energy research dates back several decades to the 1970s when NASA developed an analytical model to predict wind turbine power generation during high winds. [55] Today, both Sandia National Laboratories and National Renewable Energy Laboratory have programs dedicated to wind research. Sandia’s laboratory focuses on the advancement of materials, aerodynamics, and sensors. [56] The NREL wind projects are centered on improving wind plant power production, reducing their capital costs, and making wind energy more cost effective overall. [57]

The Field Laboratory for Optimized Wind Energy (FLOWE) at CalTech was established to research alternative approaches to wind energy farming technology practices that have the potential to reduce the cost, size, and environmental impact of wind energy production. [58]

Main article: Ethanol

As the primary source of biofuels in North America, many organizations are conducting research in the area of ethanol production. On the Federal level, the USDA conducts a large amount of research regarding ethanol production in the United States. Much of this research is targeted toward the effect of ethanol production on domestic food markets. [59]

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has conducted various ethanol research projects, mainly in the area of cellulosic ethanol[60] Cellulosic ethanol has many benefits over traditional corn based-ethanol. It does not take away or directly conflict with the food supply because it is produced from wood, grasses, or non-edible parts of plants. [61] Moreover, some studies have shown cellulosic ethanol to be more cost effective and economically sustainable than corn-based ethanol. [62] Sandia National Laboratories conducts in-house cellulosic ethanol research [63] and is also a member of the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a research institute founded by the United States Department of Energy with the goal of developing cellulosic biofuels. [64]

Thailand is among the leading countries pursuing the development of alternative sources of energy.  The country’s 15-year plan to lift alternative and renewable energy’s share of total energy production from 6% today to 20% by 2022 has been implemented with great success and spearheaded fast and expansive growth of the alternative energy sector.  In 2010, for example, requests for investing in Thailand’s renewable energy projects increased 300%, as compared to the already impressive numbers of the previous years.

  • Thailand Highlights Opportunities:

Fundamentally, energy demand in Thailand is rocketing up. In 2006, imported energy increased 16% year on year to a total US$ 21.5 billion. Rising global fuel prices in combination with rising domestic demand led to a 92% increase in the cost of imported refined fuel from 2004-2005. For the last 15 years, energy consumption has outpaced GDP growth by an average rate of 40% per year. About 3.1% of Thailand’s energy production comes from renewable sources.

Solar Energy:

Solar panel use is expanding by 3,000-3,500 square meters per year, and domestic demand has nowhere to go but up to meet the country’s need for renewable energy. Currently, much of Thailand’s solar-panels are made for export, but private firms are now beginning to market solar roofing and smaller-scale systems for residential and commercial use in the domestic market.

One of the more technologically advanced methods of energy production, Thailand offers opportunities in all aspects of solar energy production and on many scales. Thailand continues to make significant strides in solar generated electric capacity, which was around 30 MW in 2006.  Solar energy development not only offers great potential for filling a domestic energy demand, particularly in remote rural and mountainous regions, but also as a new export product in solar modules.  In fact, the BOI is currently awarding and considering investment promotion for several companies involved in the manufacture of solar cell modules, with a collective value of US$187.79 million.

Ethanol:

Higher demand and lower supplies equal great investment opportunities. Demand for ethanol will be 3 million litres per day in 2011, for use in making octane 95 gasohol, although Thailand’s existing ethanol plants currently are able to produce 825,000 liters/day. Yet another alternative fuel that can be supported by Thailand’s strong and vibrant agricultural base, ethanol production uses cassava/tapioca and sugar cane/molasses as raw inputs. Thailand just happens to be the #1 cassava exporter and the #2 sugar exporter in the world, with its tapioca export value jumping 27% last year.

Biodiesel:

The government has a target of 4.25 million litres/day of biodiesel, for a 7% consumption substitute of diesel by the year 2011. Palm oil, one of the most readily available inputs for biodiesel production can be found in abundant quantities in Thailand.  Its cultivation can produce 5,800 liters of the fuel per hectare (US 580 gallons/acre), making agricultural cultivation of biodiesel incredibly efficient.  And, the government is promoting palm oil cultivation to reach 400,000 hectares by 2012. Bio-petrol blends with as little as 2% biodiesel (B2) have been shown to improve engine parts lubrication.  Proven biodegradability, flexibility in use, and lower cost should ensure biodiesel growth for years to come.

Biomass:

With its strong agricultural base, and status as the world’s top exporter of several commodities, biomass has traditionally been one of the more pervasive sources of alternative energy in Thailand, accounting for approximately 80%. The Energy Ministry has already short listed 15 local biomass power plants for foreign company investment, under the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol: a transaction with a potential worth more than US$8.47 million per year.

Wind Power:

The Thai government offers subsidies for electricity produced by wind power, with prices at 2.5 baht per unit (kilowatt/hour)

  • The following is from the Thai Embassy Washington DC:

Renowned HIV temple will build green power plant

Green energy could be the key to saving a Buddhist temple that has gained global praise for providing sanctuary, care and support to tens of thousands of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The temple is building Thailand’s first biomass power plant, which will also help debt-ridden farmers in the area by purchasing their raw materials to generate energy.

Phra Alongkot, the temple’s abbot who created the idea for the biomass power plant, worked at the Ministry of Agriculture before joining the sangha, or Buddhist clergy. In 1991, he began providing hospice care for people infected with HIV at his temple, Wat Phrabat Nam Phu in Lopburi province about an hour’s drive north of Bangkok. At the time, stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV (PLHA) and misconceptions about the disease were still strong. Several monks left the temple, the community opposed the abbot’s actions, and farmers voiced fears their crops would be infected with the virus.

The abbot held firm, however, and eventually won over the community. Wat Phrabat Nam Phu has provided a place for care and support for tens of thousands of PLHA, and before treatment was available, a hospice where they could die with dignity. It also serves as an education center on HIV, helping to break down negative attitudes and ignorance about the disease among the Thai public.

Although the temple receives donations from around the world, and has received financial support from Thailand’s royal family, the costs of providing care have pushed it to the edge of financial collapse in recent years. In a master-stroke of creative thinking, Phra Alongkot came up with the idea of building a biomass power plant. Doing so would reduce the temple’s own energy costs, generate revenue for its hospital by selling the power it produces, and help debt-ridden farmers in the area by buying their taramba trees, a fast-growing species that can be used as fuel.

Few farmers were interested at first, mainly because they did not have the funds to plant the trees. Phra Alongkot convinced them to take part by literally providing seed money so they could begin growing the trees. One farmer with 0.4 acres can produce about six tons of taramba logs every 14 months.

The plant will be fully operational in the first half of 2013, and will be managed by A Plus Power Company. The abbot says that the project will employ PLHA, and also help mitigate climate change.

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