The government needs to think about an effective infrastructure before implementation
Thailand must work smarter and harder to create an effective renewable energy infrastructure, says the chairman and chief executive of B.Grimm.
Implementing a successful renewable energy regime is not easy, and many factors must be taken into account in regards to the effect on costs for citizens and how to efficiently use resources, says Harald Link.
"There are many ways to transport yourself from A to B -- one is you buy shoes and another is you shoot a rocket to the moon," he said. "With electricity, you have to see who is using the technology, when they need it and what costs they are willing to pay. The challenge for every country is to find the appropriate mix and the appropriate development path."
For example, Mr Link said governments must consider the possible ramifications of installing too many rooftop solar cells.
"What you have to think about is that poor people cannot buy rooftops [solar], but someone has to invest in the transmission lines so when the sun doesn't shine, electricity is still supplied," he said. "The more rooftops you have, the less electricity these transmission lines can sell, so in the end they will want to redistribute these costs to electricity users, which would create a burden on poorer people who do not use the rooftop solar."
Essentially poorer people who have been left behind by the renewable energy revolution could be left struggling to pay for old sources of energy.
"So this is what every government in the whole world should think about," he said. "How to pay for transmission lines and how to keep electricity affordable."
B.Grimm, a multinational energy, healthcare and real estate conglomerate based in Bangkok, has been operating in Thailand for 140 years and owns multiple renewable and gas power plants in Thailand, as well as Laos and Vietnam.
Mr Link said solar and biofuels are the most effective renewable energy sources for expansion in Thailand, as the full capacity of hydroelectric power has already been reached.
Wind is a less effective source, yet B.Grimm is developing a wind farm in Mukdahan. He said Thailand is also good for biogas, where methane gas is captured from livestock waste to be reused for fuel.
B.Grimm is also working to develop a smart power grid for Amata City in Chon Buri. The industrial city was also selected by China and Japan to be the first-ever joint project between the two nations to build a pilot smart city.
"In a smart grid you know at every single moment much energy each user is consuming, and you can use artificial intelligence to project demand for the future," Mr Link said. "Then you would use either human beings or machines to direct generators best use and the best path for electricity to take. Smart means optimisation and we are trying to optimise everything about the process."
Thailand can also learn from mistakes from the past. Mr Link's home country of Germany is an undisputed leader in renewable energy, but implementation could have been more efficient. In a rush to grow its renewable base, Germany actually developed wind farms in impractical areas and overproduced solar energy, and now must export some of the energy out of the country at a loss.
"Thailand has to proceed step by step and put thought into [renewable energy]," Mr Link said. "The Energy Ministry, the regulator and the private sector have to discuss and see how to develop [the sector] in a manner that the whole country benefits."