Joint Thai-Japanese study points the way forward for sustainable energy and the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions
Following global policies and actions to avoid catastrophic climate change through greater practical methodologies, a joint “Road Map for a Low-carbon Thailand towards 2050” initiative is aimed at contributing to widespread climate-policy planning in the Kingdom.
The low-carbon Thailand (LCT) road map is one of the joint research outcomes of support and collaboration between Thammasat University’s Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology (SIIT), the Asian Institute of Technology, the National Institute for Environmental Studies at Japan’s Kyoto University, and the Mizuho Information and Research Institute in Japan.
Starting in 2010, the research was undertaken in the hope that it would be interpreted into policies for sustainable energy and the environmental transition of Thailand towards a low-carbon society.
Bundit Limmeechokchai, SIIT associate professor and head of the Thai-Japanese research team, said the study was aimed at creating awareness among Thailand’s policy-makers, administrators, stakeholders and communities for discussion on decisive actions to be taken to realise robust growth and a low-carbon Thailand.
All measures were grouped into six main action categories in the road map: clean power, green industry, smart passenger transport, effective freight transport, Thai-style comfortable houses, and modern buildings.
Sources of renewable energy such as solar, wind and biomass, and biofuels have been included in some of these actions.
Short- and long-term goals
The short-term road-map is intended for Thailand’s proposed Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA), while the long-term road map is provided for discussion of a sustainable Thailand.
Bundit also suggested that as Thailand had adopted climate-change mitigation and adaptation paths in accordance with the 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan (2012-2016) and the National Master Plan on Climate Change (2011-2050) prepared by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, the country should apply for NAMA facility support.
During the international climate-change negotiations last December, the United Kingdom together with other industrialised countries committed to mobilising US$100 billion (about Bt3 trillion) in international climate finance per year by 2020.
The facility is designed to support developing countries that show strong leadership on tackling climate change and want to implement transformational NAMA.
“There are many investment projects related to climate-change mitigation, but the government does not [to date] seek global financial support provided for developing countries,” said Bundit.
In this study, only selected GHG (greenhouse gas) mitigation options, which have been found to be cost-effective, are included in the 2050 LCS (low-carbon societies) scenario. It is regarded as the first road map to be accomplished for LCT using an optimisation model called “AIM/Enduse”.
Under the scenario without mitigation measures, that is, the 2050 BAU (business-as-usual) scenario, Thai GHG emissions would increase to 769,896kt-CO2 (kilotonnes of carbon dioxide), 4.6 times higher than in the base year, 2005.
In 2050, the per-capita emission of Thailand is estimated to increase from 2.9 tonnes of CO2 per year to 7.1t-CO2/year or 9.9t-CO2/year, with and without countermeasures, respectively.
In order to mitigate emissions to a lower level, several comprehensive measures such as diffusion of low-carbon technologies in the residential sector, energy-efficient buildings, energy-efficient industry and fuel-switching, fuel substitution and new mass-transit systems in the transport sector, and clean electricity generation sector are needed, he said.
Broader technology use
This mitigation target could be achieved by a combination of initiatives on both the supply and demand sides, thereby widening technology use.
On the supply side, renewable-energy technologies and clean technologies would play crucial roles, while on the demand side, energy-efficient devices and fuel-switching could contribute to higher GHG reduction.
Therefore, in order to achieve a sustainable Thailand towards 2050, these policy packages in the road map must be planned at the early stage, he added.
However, this LCS concept for developing countries such as Thailand would be different from that for the developed economies, as the former have lower per-capita emissions and low emissions in relation to gross domestic product.
Nevertheless, the LCS study would provide opportunities for Thailand to decide the future energy system, related infrastructure and lifestyle-related choices, said Bundit.
Thailand today faces challenges in energy-environment-economic development with limited resources availability, minimal externalities and global climate change. One of the approaches to overcoming this development paradox is through adoption of a sustainable development paradigm, he suggested.
Energy-environment modelling results for Thailand show a substantial increasing system cost to meet the GHG reduction targets. This higher cost would result in a GDP loss that would be compensated through international transactions and measures such as the Clean Development Mechanism.
Based on primary energy demand by sources, total GHG emissions in the BAU are projected to increase from 178,726 kt-CO2 in 2005 to 769,896 kt-CO2 in 2050.
The AIM/Enduse modelling results also show that GHG emissions from the power sector will be 321,514 kt-CO2 in 2050, accounting for 41.8 per cent of total GHG emissions, and GHG emissions from the industry sector will be 199,084 kt-CO2, accounting for 25.9 per cent of all GHG emissions.
In 2050, GHG emissions from passenger and freight transport are also found to be about 4.6 times the amount in 2005, and their share will be 25.6 per cent of total GHG emissions.
In 2050, the AIM/Enduse results estimate that total GHG emissions in Thailand will be reduced from 769,896 kt-CO2 in the BAU scenario to 551,575 kt-CO2 in the 2050 LCS (a reduction of 28.4 per cent of total GHG emissions) through the adoption of countermeasures for GHG emissions in the actions of clean power generation, green industries, effective freight transport, smart passenger transport, modern buildings, and Thai-style comfortable houses.
In the 2050 LCS, the green industry measures account for the largest proportion (45.5 per cent) of the CO2 reduction, followed by smart passenger transport (38.2 per cent), Thai-style comfortable houses (35 per cent), modern buildings (34.6 per cent), clean power (18.1 per cent) and efficient freight transport (13.2 per cent)
In the road map to a low-carbon Thailand, some GHG countermeasures must be implemented in the early years (before 2030), and some must be implemented after 2030 due to the constraints of technological availability in commercial scale, and the lifetime of existing energy technologies.
Early planning crucial
If these countermeasures are not planned for implementation in the early stage, the target of national and global GHG reduction in the future years will not be achieved, said the research chief.
Most GHG direct and indirect countermeasures will be implemented by government agencies, public and private companies. Therefore, these stakeholders must be included among the entities implementing the road map to a low-carbon Thailand, he argued.
Moreover, due to limitations on allocated resources and funds, optimisation techniques and modelling should be used to identify the measures and their starting time for implementation in order to achieve the GHG reduction targets.