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TUESDAY, June 06, 2023
Energy Ministry asks parties not to vow super-low fuel prices to woo voters

Energy Ministry asks parties not to vow super-low fuel prices to woo voters

MONDAY, March 20, 2023

The Energy Ministry on Monday asked political parties to stop promising low energy prices in their election campaigns, saying the pledges could trigger false hope among the public and damage the country.

Senior officials from the ministry and Office of the Energy Regulatory Commission (OERC) held a press conference to warn parties to tone down their pre-poll promises on energy bills.

Gunn Saengruang, deputy secretary-general of the OERC, said the pledges of unrealistically low energy prices could undermine the national energy structure and the country’s fiscal discipline.

The also risked affecting sustainability of the economy, with knock-on effects on people’s livelihoods and the country’s competitiveness, he added.

Among parties proposing to overhaul the energy price structure is the Chart Pattana Kla Party. Its leader Korn Chatikavanij has repeatedly said refineries are being allowed to profit excessively from their gross refining margin (GRM), which he has blamed for high fuel prices in Thailand.

Gunn insisted the Energy Ministry considers all policies thoroughly by taking public and national interests into account before implementing them.

He said the OERC has enforced several measures to lower the cost of producing electricity and reduce bills for households.

Electricity-generating costs had been high, resulting in high power bills, because Thailand was in the process of changing petroleum and gas exploration concessionaires, he said. The new concessionaire delivered a lower amount of natural gas during the transition period, so the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) initially had to import natural gas at higher prices, he said.

The OERC was cooperating with Egat and national PTT to find alternative energy sources to try to reduce costs.

He said both household and industrial power bills for May to August should fall to levels seen last December.

Pisut Pianmonkul, secretary to Energy Minister Supattanapong Punmeechaow, said global oil prices have been fluctuating because of the Russia-Ukraine war.

Pisut said the Energy Ministry is monitoring the prices closely and coordinating with relevant government agencies to handle the energy price crisis.

Weerapat Kiartfuangfoo, ministry deputy permanent secretary, said the ministry could not interfere in the market mechanism by setting the GRM of the refineries.

Refineries had to calculate their GRM using set criteria, he added.

Weerapat said the ministry and OERC are monitoring the oil price and using the Oil Fuel Fund while seeking cooperation from oil traders to keep prices as low as possible to have minimum impact on the public.