By CHULARAT SAENGPASSA
Energy Ministry permanent secretary Areepong Bhoocha-Oom said the agreement would pave the way for the Laos-Thailand-Malaysia electricity deal, enabling the Asean Power Grid to materialise.
“The agreement will be for the sale and purchase of electricity between Laos and Malaysia, using Thailand’s transmission system. We will be the link for the two neighbours,” he said. “The volume of electricity involved is 100 megawatts.”
The concept of an Asean Power Grid was first floated at an informal Asean summit in late 1997. Areepong said this upcoming agreement could make the grid a reality.
The signing of the historic agreement is set to take place at the Asean Ministers of Energy Meeting, which will be held in Manila between September 17 and 22.
According to Areepong, Thailand has usually signed bilateral contracts in terms of electricity deals. But this planned agreement will involve Thailand and two other nations.
“Laos will generate and sell electricity to Malaysia under the agreement. Laos will get paid for electricity while Thailand will get paid for its transmission,” he said.
He added that in the future, Malaysia might consider selling to Singapore some of the electricity it acquired from Laos.
He said he hoped that this power-grid integration by Thailand, Malaysia and Laos would encourage other Asean nations to head in the same direction.
He said there was a possibility of Thailand becoming an electricity-transmission hub, because China has invested in many hydroelectric dams in Laos and Cambodia and has approached Thailand about transmission services.
“This presents good opportunities for us. Electricity from Laos and Cambodia can be sold to other nations via our transmission system, if we can connect transmission lines with Cambodia too. As of now, we have already connected the lines with Laos,” Areepong said.
He said Thailand and Cambodia had planned a collaborative project on electric and water development. Known as the Stung Nam hydropower project, it is the first concrete move since the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on the deal.
The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand will invest in this project, because it will buy power produced via Egat International.
“We believe we can work together in many more projects in the future. We are now negotiating on building a coal-fired power plant in Koh Kong,” a province in southwestern Cambodia, Areepong said.
He is also optimistic about negotiations with Myanmar on a plan to develop the Man Tong Dam. “This dam project will benefit both sides. We both need electricity. So we expect the negotiations to conclude well before the end of this year,” he said.
Thailand plans to invest in three power plants in Myanmar. Of these plans, the one related to the Man Tong Dam has the brightest prospects. If the ongoing feasibility review rules in favour of the dam, the hydropower plant in the Upper Salween River will take off with production capacity of 7,000MW. It is expected to be able to generate electricity for distribution by either 2028 or 2029.
Areepong disclosed that Thailand had conducted a study on connecting transmission lines to Myanmar’s Dawei Industrial Estate.
“The Energy Ministry has raised this point with Myanmar. If it wants electricity from Laos, we can facilitate the transmission via Kanchanaburi province,” he said.
Areepong said that although Thailand would likely be unable to construct more hydroelectric dams of its own, it had a good chance of buying hydroelectricity from neighbouring nations.