With various significant green projects getting implemented in Thailand, the country is set to be the powerhouse for clean energy in Southeastern region.
Kansai Electric Power Rooftop Project
Among the noteworthy green projects in the country is the latest installation project of panels on the rooftop of a factory in Thailand manufacturing high-performance Falken tires for the European market. This will be the world’s biggest stand-alone rooftop solar panels project to be built by Japan-based Kansai Electric Power’s Thailand unit. The size of the rooftop is equivalent in size to over 18 football pitches. Located in the heart of Thailand’s high tech Eastern Economic Corridor, the project will be a colossal renewable energy project. The project will be constructed with the investments from the international investors.
Informing about the details of the project, the press note said, “Together with a gas co-generation system and additional electric power fueled by biomass from surplus rubber trees, the 40,000-panel, 100,000 square meter rooftop will have in 2025 a total output of 22MW, reduce Co2 emissions by 38,000 tonnes and ultimately enabling the factory’s owner, Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd, to function entirely on renewable energy.”
“In terms of the promotional force of the country, we think Thailand is the most advanced in the ASEAN region,” said, Katsuhisa Yamamoto, Managing Director of Kansai’s Thai unit.
It should be noted that as part of a sweeping national sustainability strategy known as the Bio-Circular Green economy, the Thai government has successfully packaged a raft of subsidies, tax breaks and other incentives to lure investors to finance and build renewable energy-related projects. “It’s very important for our business, especially in tax benefit,” Yamamoto remarked.
Shuji Hashizume, a Bangkok-based Principal Investment Specialist in the Private Sector Operations Department of the Asian Development Bank, the Manila-based regional lender that has funded numerous green energy projects across Asia, believes those investors are going to the right place.
Thailand has also become both the regional hub for electric vehicle production and its fastest-growing market as a result of major investments by EV manufacturers such as BYD Co., Great Wall Motor and SAIC of China, Mercedes Benz of Germany and newcomer Foxconn Technology Group of Taiwan.
Thailand is spending billions of dollars on clean energy investments that includes a $1 billion EV joint venture with Foxconn and a $100 million partnership with the world’s largest car battery maker, China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology, or CATL.
EGAT’s Floating Solar Initiatives
State-owned power giant, the Energy Generating Authority of Thailand, or EGAT, is transforming the country’s major reservoirs by topping them with floating solar farms to form some of the world’s largest dual-system power that includes both solar and hydro-electric power. The same year, it also partnered with Korea Electric Power Corporation and Energy China to power Bangkok’s third international airport at U-Tapao and the adjoining Airport City – both flagship projects in the development of Thailand’s Eastern Economic Corridor, the hub of Thailand’s transformation into a knowledge economy. In another world first, B.Grimm Power and its partners have created a hybrid system for U-Tapao, comprising an 80MW gas-fired power plant, a 15MW solar photovoltaic farm and a 50MW energy storage system.
Smart City Projects
Meanwhile in the industrial estates where its power business first thrived, B.Grimm Power is partnering with Amata Corp. PCL, a Thai company that is developing its industrial parks into so-called smart cities, and Siam Cement Group, or SCG, the country’s largest conglomerate, to increase supplies of clean energy and put more solar systems on factory roofs – a project also heavily backed by the Board of Investment.
“Thailand is one of the pioneers in the region in promoting renewables into the masterplan of the country,” Nopadej Karnasuta, B.Grimm Power’s Senior Executive Vice President for Investment, Innovation and Sustainability, said in an interview. “It has been very, very successful and we are very fortunate to be part of it. The BOI has played an essential role in terms of promoting and incentivizing the investor community.”
Now B.Grimm Power is focused on what it terms a “greenleap” strategy in which it will invest some $2 billion to almost triple capacity from 3,668 MW to 10,000 MW by 2030 while at the same time doubling the proportion of renewable energy from 25 percent to 50 percent of the company’s total output.
There should be no shortage of takers for those renewables. With global CO2 emissions required to fall by 80 percent by 2050, B.Grimm Power estimates that Southeast Asia is going to need 920GW of renewable energy while only being on target to achieve 340GW – creating a shortfall of almost 600 GW. “You can say the sky’s the limit for renewables,” Nopadej said.
Green Tariff Initiative
Thailand’s clean energy initiatives have clearly struck a chord with San Jose, California-based Western Digital Corp., one of the world’s largest suppliers of data storage infrastructure, which has long been a major investor in the kingdom.
Western Digital this year set itself ambitious new targets that include running its global operations on 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. And in Thailand it has announced it is collaborating with EGAT and Innopower, an energy innovations company set up by Thailand’s leading power utilities, in a green tariff initiative that seeks to drive clean energy use in the kingdom. As part of the deal, Western Digital will use electricity from renewables at its factory in Bang Pa-In, north of Bangkok, and test green energy procurement options guaranteed by Innopower.
“This is an important milestone for Western Digital in our sustainability journey where we have set an ambitious aim to reduce our carbon footprint,” Philip Bernard, Senior Vice President of Western Digital Storage Technologies (Thailand), said at the signing ceremony.
Amazon.com Inc has set itself an even tougher target – to power its operations with 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. In 2022, its global cloud unit, Amazon Web Services, announced it would open an infrastructure region in Thailand, pledging to spend $5 billion in the country over 15 years.
The statement said, Amazon is the world’s largest purchaser of renewable energy. Among its early customers, ENRES, a Thai startup that uses the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence to optimise energy usage in buildings and factories while simultaneously benefitting the planet.
Thailand’s road to renewables hasn’t always been easy, pointed out the statement. The Asian Development Bank’s Hashizume recalls that when the ADB helped finance Southeast Asia’s first utility-scale solar investment in Thailand in 2010 there was much skepticism about the cost and reliability of renewable energy.
Though the country’s enthusiasm for renewables went down for a few years because of the easy availability of gas fired power, Hashizume said. “ Thailand has woken up again to the opportunities and is poised to benefit from a new wave of investment inspired by companies whose stakeholders demand high environmental, social and governance standards,” said he.
In addition to solar, wind and hydro, Hashizume sees emerging opportunities in green hydrogen, ammonia, new areas of e-mobility, carbon capture and offshore wind. “Thailand will continue to be the frontrunner and we hope to be there to help do the financing,” he said.