Fuelling Thailand’s future of energy: Energy transition trends shaping in 2024

TUESDAY, MAY 28, 2024

The world is making a concerted effort to transition away from fossil fuels and adopt clean energy. The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in 2023 witnessed this shift, concluding with an agreement that signified the “beginning of the end” of the fossil fuel era. This agreement laid the groundwork for a swift, fair, and equitable adoption of clean energy.

The advancement of clean energy, in its diverse forms, is a shared global objective. However, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) report Renewable Capacity Statistics 2023, Asia accounted for nearly 60% of the worldwide increase in renewable energy generating capacity in 2022, resulting in a total of 1.63 Terawatt (TW) of renewable capacity by year-end. A significant portion of this increase occurred in China.
The Big Shift 

Asia’s role in achieving global climate goals is crucial. The region has historically grown through emission-intensive activities. According to the Asia in the Global Transition to Net Zero: Asian Development Outlook 2023 Thematic Report, the region’s carbon intensity – the amount of carbon emissions produced per dollar of gross domestic product – is 41% higher than the rest of the world. 
The good news, however, is that some Asian countries are ahead of the curve in exploring renewable power to drive growth and address climate change. For instance, in Thailand, clean energy currently accounts for approximately 25% of the total energy production capacity. 

Thailand is also making strides towards its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2030. Moreover, there is a significant push by the government to implement clean energy policies, such as the National Energy Plan aims for 50% of electricity generation from clean sources by 2040.

Thailand's economy is projected for significant growth over the next 20 years, fueled by rising export growth, booming industries and recovery of the tourism sector. This exciting prospect comes with a crucial challenge: meeting the nation's growing energy demands and placing strain on current domestic energy supplies.  Its continued success therefore depends on how efficiently it balances economic goals while laying the groundwork for a more climate-resilient future.
This means the country needs to strategically develop and employ cost-effective renewable energy solutions and technologies, robust financing models, and policy frameworks that incentivize the adoption of green technologies. 
Partnering for Decarbonization and Economic Growth: The growing interest in clean energy across Asian countries is a positive trend. However, it alone may not suffice to achieve the goal of reducing emission intensity by 25% by 2030 and reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 
As the nation navigates the complexities of surging energy demand and environmental responsibility, the need for a balanced approach between decarbonization and economic prosperity becomes paramount. Embracing collaboration across borders and sectors is essential to charting a sustainable path forward.
Thailand is committed to reducing greenhouse gases under carbon neutrality and net-zero campaigns that go beyond removing carbon emissions such as methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), and other hydrofluorocarbons. The government targets to scale up clean energy to 50% of new power generation capacity from renewable by 2050.

Fuelling Thailand’s future of energy: Energy transition trends shaping in 2024

Key Technologies to Drive Energy Transition Success

As the world transitions towards cleaner energy sources, optimizing existing energy fuels to minimize carbon emissions becomes imperative. This approach ensures a smoother and more sustainable transition, particularly in countries where energy security remains a concern. By focusing on reducing the carbon footprint of conventional fuels, we not only address immediate environmental challenges but also pave the way for a more resilient energy future. Balancing the need for energy security with sustainability goals requires strategic investments in technology and infrastructure, coupled with robust policy frameworks that incentivize low-carbon practices. 
A clear example is the study and development of the carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in Thailand, initiated by PTT Exploration and Production Public Company Limited (PTTEP) in 2021.   PTTEP is leading Thailand's CCS efforts with a large-scale Eastern Thailand hub capturing 6-10 million tonnes of CO₂ annually by 2030, alongside the first national project at Arthit gas field starting operation in 2027, aiming to reduce emissions by up to 1 million tonnes annually.

ABB invests in partnerships with industry experts to reduce the barrier to adoption. In the UK, the company partnered with Pace CCS which uses ABB’s digital twin technology to simulate the design stage and test scenarios to deliver proof of concept and ensure the design is fit for its purpose. This will demonstrate to customers how they can smoothly transition into CCS operations.
Hydrogen and Ammonia:  Hydrogen and ammonia present significant potential as competitive net-zero energy sources, with scaling up production serving as a key strategy for decarbonizing numerous sectors. Australia’s Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain exemplifies this, being the first commercial-scale liquefied hydrogen supply chain with the potential to reduce global CO2 emissions by 1.8 million tonnes annually. The versatile nature of both fuels has reportedly prompted countries like Japan and South Korea to establish a joint supply network for carbon-neutral fuels. In Thailand too, the government is promoting hydrogen as a new fuel for electricity production alongside natural gas. The aim is to increase green hydrogen's share by>5% of the electricity production from gas turbine power plants significantly by 2031 The country also recently sought technical assistance from the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) to develop national strategies on green hydrogen. Furthermore, Thailand has announced plans to build its first commercial green hydrogen project with China.
However, safety concerns and challenges regarding hydrogen production, flammability, storage, transportation, and end-use applications must be addressed before widespread adoption. This is where digital twin technologies offer a promising solution.
Digitalization for sustainable energy management:  The energy sector is increasingly adopting digital twins to facilitate the integration of renewables into the grid and mitigate risks in new energy markets. These digital twins are data-centric, providing insights for better decision-making, leading to efficiency and sustainability gains like reducing energy consumption and environmental impact.
Companies like ABB are advancing automation, electrification, and digital solutions to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of the fossil fuels sector. This includes electrifying operations, reducing emissions with analyzers, and supporting the development of next-generation technologies such as CCS.
RENEWABLE POWER: Solar power is one of the major renewable energies in Thailand present solar capacity of 3.3 GW represents more than 60% of ASEAN's total installed capacity. The world’s largest floating solar is at Sirindhorn Dam in Ubon Ratchathani. ABB provides an Energy Management Solution to improve energy efficiency and operational flexibility for the hydro project. 
ABB offers a range of digital solutions to help global and Thailand achieve its energy transition goals. The solution platforms optimize power grids, improving efficiency and enabling the seamless integration of renewable energy sources. The automation technology helps to optimize plant operations, potentially reducing energy consumption. Recently ABB is awarded a contract to automate a new bioplastics plant in Thailand converting sugarcane into Ingeo™ biopolymer. This plant is set to produce 75,000 tons of sustainable plastic annually.
Building The Net Zero Workforce

There is wide consensus that to deliver a sustainable, net-zero future, an all-energy workforce needs to be developed. Asia still has a large workforce in the fossil fuel industry that has to be engaged and upskilled. This requires partnership and cooperation between industry, government, and educational institutions. ABB is committed to building the net-zero workforce not just globally, but also locally in Thailand. With over 400 employees and 5 installed bases here, we actively invest in upskilling our Thai workforce and collaborating with local partners to ensure a smooth energy transition. Initiatives like the world's only carbon capture training plant, an outcome of collaboration between ABB and the Imperial College London– where students and employees get hands-on experience with this crucial technology, exemplify the commitment of different stakeholders to strengthen the net zero workforce landscape.
Energy transition presents multifaceted opportunities and challenges across technological, economic, social, and environmental dimensions. Although the necessary technology exists, scaling it up rapidly and adequately is imperative. While collaboration is key, policymakers must also prioritize energy sector transition with appropriate government incentives. There has never been a more critical time for Asia to harness technology for clean and equitable energy transitions.

Anders Maltesen, President, Energy Industries, Asia, ABB

Fuelling Thailand’s future of energy: Energy transition trends shaping in 2024