Thailand has enormous potential to develop its energy sector.
Renewable energies are of particular importance in this respect.
But Thailand serves as a bridge to a new energy future for Southeast Asia and the world.
1. Thailand’s biomass potential is virtually unrivaled in Southeast Asia
Thailand has an ideal location near the equator and has significant agricultural production. Similar to Indonesia, biomass can play an important role in Thailand’s energy infrastructure. This includes biomass production in rural areas in the north of the country.
2. Waste-to-energy can grow by leaps and bounds in Thailand
Bankok can play a key role in waste-to-energy to provide more electricity and heat for regional industry and commerce. The larger metropolitan area has growth potential that should not be underestimated, and Bankok is a sprawling metropolis with a lot of waste that will only continue to grow as the middle class flourishes. There are many new waste-to-energy solutions that may be of interest in solving Thailand’s waste and energy problems, and waste-to-fuel can make an important contribution to Thailand’s energy landscape. There is currently a lot of discussion about whether hydrogen is the energy carrier of the future and a lot of investment is flowing in this direction. As the Thai middle class grows, more plastic is produced. This plastic material can be converted into fuel.
3. Fossil fuels continue to play a significant role in Thailand’s energy sector
Thailand is embedded in the ASEAN economic architecture, which contributes to the further industrialization of the country. To advance Thailand’s industrialization, it is critical to ensure a reliable energy supply to sustain industrial production. Thailand relies largely on imported energy to meet the energy needs of its growing industry. The Strait of Malacca thus plays a central role in ensuring continuous supplies of hydrocarbons.
4. Hydropower is a mainstay of the Thai energy industry
Thailand has significant hydropower potential due to the enormous amount of rainfall at higher latitudes. The country’s slope drops from the mountainous north to the sea, and extensive river networks crisscross the country. Nevertheless, Thailand’s hydropower potential appears to be second only to neighboring Myanmar. It has often been argued that hydropower is one of the best renewable energy sources because its high EROI (Energy Return-on-Energy-Invested) outperforms almost all other renewable energy sources, including geothermal. Thus, Thailand is in a good position with hydroelectric power generation.
5. Energy geopolitics: A new sea channel for global energy transport
Cooperation with Malaysia and Singapre is particularly important when it comes to the construction of a new shipping canal in the south of the country on the Malaysian peninsula. The new shipping canal, if built, could compete with shipping through the Strait of Malacca. This new shipping canal would facilitate trade from the Indian Ocean and into the Western Pacific. This new project would be critical to the economic development of Southeast Asia, but it might not facilitate cooperation with Malaysia and especially Singapore, which is directly across the Strait of Malacca. This has to do with the fact that much of the world’s hydrocarbon exports flow through the Strait of Malacca, arguably one of the most important waterways in the world.
6. Thailand’s enormous wind and solar energy potential can be further expanded
Due to its equatorial latitude, Thailand can expand wind energy production beyond current levels. Solar energy is likely to be more important than wind energy for Thailand’s renewable energy future.
Thailand’s wind energy potential is unlikely to match Vietnam’s because Thailand is further from the western Pacific Ocean, which benefits from higher wind speeds. In comparison, Vietnam has much higher wind speeds in the south of the country due to the flat terrain.
7. Thailand can become a major hub for power distribution in Southeast Asia
Thailand remains a critical node for interconnecting power grids in Southeast Asia. Given the limited renewable energy installations, this is a particularly important issue.
Given that the north of the country is much more mountainous and less accessible for grid development, a decentralized energy grid could play a crucial role in providing the energy Thailand needs to industrialize the entire country. Biomass and solar energy can play a key role here.
8. The Silk Road initiative plays a central role in Thailand’s future energy policy
The Silk Road Initiative holds additional opportunities for Thailand’s energy sector. China has established itself as the central hub of the Asian energy market. For Thailand’s industry and energy sector to thrive, the relationship with China is absolutely critical. As a major trading partner of China, there are incentives to link infrastructure projects to make trade more efficient. China offers Thailand both an export market and the opportunity to develop its domestic energy infrastructure.