Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rise in power use signals recovery


Published: 21/08/2009 at 08:38 PM

National power consumption is up by 2% this month, the first increase in eight months and a sign of recovery, said Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) governor Sombat Sarntijaree.

Consumption was up to 8,293.7 million units (kilowatt/hours) in the first 20 days of August, 2% more than in the same period last year.

"This is the first time that power use has been on the rise since the economic crisis began. Since October last year until last month, power consumption has kept declining in line with the slowdown in industry and consumers' purchasing power,'' he said.

Power demand was below last year's figures from January to July. Consumption in January was down by 13% to 10,140 million units, in February by 0.03% to 10,862 million, March by 3% to 12,628 million, April by 3.3% to 11,898 million, May by 1.7% to 12,552 million, June by 3% to 12,389 million and July by 2.23% to 12,509 million.

In the first quarter there was a 5.5% decline to 33,615 million units.

Last year power consumption edged up almost 1%, with political conflict and high oil prices curbing growth. This year Egat expects power consumption to shrink by between 2% and 2.5% from 2008, said Mr Sombat.

Until this year, Thailand's power demand had fallen only once in the last 25 years _ during the financial crisis in 1998, when demand slipped 2% before growing 2% the following year.

"The positive growth of demand was genuinely an indicator for the economy that it was recovered. We hope the positive growth this time will also be the same,'' said Mr Sombat.

He also said Egat was now assessing the damage in suffered from PTT's gas pipeline leak last weekend and would bill PTT. "We handled the immediate crisis by using other fuels instead of natural gas and these fuels were more expensive than gas,'' he said.

An extra 400 million baht in production costs corresponds to one satang per unit of fuel, he said.

The incident shows that the country badly needs to improve its power management, said Egat deputy governor Somboon Arayaskul. "At that time [last weekend], we needed to use reserve capacity, which is about 25% of total power capacity. Yet we had to push hydroelectric generators to work exceeding their limits to control the situation,'' he said.

This reflected Thailand's excessive reliance on natural gas, which accounts for 74% of fuel used in power generation, creating a high risk of blackouts, he said.

Developed countries balance fuels such as gas, coal, nuclear and hydro. When one fuel is disrupted, the impact is limited and others can compensate.

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