International report: Thailand’s energy sources

Thailand: beautiful views and energy challenges
Hydroelectric power is one of the main energy sources in Thailand

One of the first things you want to do in Thailand, once you step out of the airport, is going to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and doing an interview. At least I did. After a week of beach time and good food that is.

By Vanda Friedrichs

EGAT is the main provider and producer of electricity in Thailand, generating about 45% of the electricity. The rest is produced by independent and privately owned companies and groups. EGAT distributes its own energy and the energy they buy from these independent companies.

To understand the system better, I had the chance to talk to an employee from EGAT who works at the NCC (National Control Center) in northern Bangkok. He gave me a tour of the control room of the center. He explained to me that his team was responsible for the system operation of all the different power stations in Thailand.

BARE student Vanda Friedrichs at the EGAT control room
BARE student Vanda Friedrichs at the control room of NCC

For security reasons the employee will be called NT.

Vanda: When you say system operation, what exactly do you mean? What does your team do?

NT: We have different responsibilities. The first division controls the amount of electricity produced by the different power stations. For example, the hydroelectric dams can produce more if there is a delay in gas supply for the gas turbine power stations. My division or job is to control the voltage from these power plants, which need to fit the voltage of the transmission lines. The third division takes care of all the paper work. The last division is the Chief in Charge, who double checks what we do and keeps an eye on the general operations.

Vanda: Regarding control: do you directly control and manage the switches for the generation of electricity and the transformers of the different power plants from the NCC?

NT: Yes and no. We keep an eye on the power stations operations and when the output or voltage needs to be changed, we can control the power station directly. This is for automated systems and stations. But some stations still need to be contacted directly. So if one power station’s output needs to increase to meet energy demands of the area, we let them know or we change it from our control center.

NCC control center in north Bangkok
NCC control center in northern Bangkok

Vanda: When managing the energy levels, what factors do you need to take into consideration?

NT: Some power stations undergo upgrades or maintenance and during those times, we need to inform the other stations to operate at a higher capacity. Another factor would be the season. This can affect the water levels in the reservoir of the hydroelectric plants. Moreover, the sun sets earlier during the winter period. This means that energy demands and peaks are different from the dry hot season. Our daily forecasts for energy demands always need to adjust to the actual demand.

Vanda: How many power stations do you control or manage?

NT: Around 130 large power stations. We also control all the individual turbines of each station.

Vanda: How many big dams do you control?

NT: There are around 20 dams in Thailand and we control almost all of them. When it comes to the largest dams there are five. The largest dam, the Bhumibol dam, has 8 turbines and a total capacity of about 750MW. The smallest dam of the five is the Rajjaprabha dam with a total capacity of about 240MW.

Vanda: Excluding hydroelectric dams, what other power plants are you in charge of?

NT: We are in charge of a lot of natural gas power plants and coal power plants. There are also a few fuel oil and diesel power plants.

Vanda: Do you have any further comments?

NT: EGAT is looking towards the future and is planning on investing more into the renewable energy sector. The government is also trying to persuade households through attractive feed-in tariffs and subsidies to invest in renewable energies as well. It will be interesting to see how this trend continues.

This month’s theme is about the energy sector in Thailand. So stay tuned for more tropical news!

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