Thais should be aware that energy sources including natural gas are constantly declining and that the country's economic foundation is not strong enough to survive an energy crisis, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha said.
He also called for people to help build energy security for the sake of the next generation.
In his weekly televised public address yesterday, the prime minister said some people might raise questions about how some countries without oil reserves have economic stability. He said this was because those countries had strong economic foundations, effective energy reserve systems, and high gross domestic product per capita. But Thailand has low GDP per capita and its economy is heavily dependent on agricultural production.
There are two main concerns in Thailand’s energy sector, the general said. The first concern is derived from ineffective management and policies that lack continuity and clarity. Thailand needs to build confidence among investors. Should it fail to do so, the country will become less stable in the future. For the past seven years, it has not invested in finding new energy sources for domestic consumption because of continual political unrest.
The second concern is derived from an imbalance between energy production and imports. The amount of energy Thailand imports is higher than what it produces.
“The combined value of imported energy sources each year accounts to more than Bt1.4 trillion. Let’s do a quick calculation here. We have a total of Bt2.575 trillion in the state budget and we spend more than half of the money on energy imports. The value of energy imported into Thailand is equivalent to the value of Thai rice exports over a period of 16 years,” he said.
“I want everyone in the country to help save energy. People still consume a lot of it although there have been a flood of complaints about the prices. We also have to look at the country’s basic infrastructure such as bus and train services, all of which are connected to energy consumption.
“The government is trying to look at the big picture and do what needs to be done. However, this may take some time as it cannot be achieved within a month or two,” he said.
Thailand annually imports 85 per cent of its crude oil, 70 per cent of its coal and lignite, 20 per cent of its natural gas, 10 per cent of its refined oil, and 4 per cent of its electricity. The country needs to manage better how it consumes each type of energy and discourage inefficient energy use in all sectors, the general said.
“Also, we need to think of a way to ensure that we do not have to rely on one energy source, but rather, are able to substitute one type of energy for another. For example, instead of using natural gas to generate electricity, a power plant might consider switching to charcoal. Some may say that charcoal is hazardous, but there are types that are not. We cannot just sit around and do nothing until all energy sources are finished.
“However, we are not certain if we will succeed in drilling and finding new energy resources even though we have satellite data and other information. It is a risk we have to take.
“I want you to understand that it is vital that the government act now, or else the Energy Ministry will be blamed for everything that goes wrong in the future. We all have to share this responsibility. As for those who oppose this energy plan, you will be held responsible if Thailand actually runs out of energy sources.”
The entire process could take as long as 10 years. Although it may be the same company that launches this project, time is required for that company to make preparations, which includes setting up oil rigs or platforms, before it actually starts drilling.
“I can assure you that the granting of [exploration] concessions will be transparent. The government is willing to consider all companies capable of making this sort of investment. We will consider all bids and offers. With that being said, we need to speed up this process before the country enters an era of energy crisis,” the prime minister said.