Renewable Energy Policies in Thailand Thesis

Thailand is one of the countries with the fastest developing economies in the world. According to Bryman and Bell (2011, p. 74), the economy of this country has experienced massive growth from 1985 to 1996. Some of the leading industries in Thailand include agriculture, tourism, industrial sector, technology and mining among other sectors. This rapid economic development has increased energy demand within the country.

The demand for energy, both for domestic consumption and industrial use, has been on the rise as the country becomes one of the regional economic powers. The country is not able to meet its energy demands from the local production because it is not rich in resources and reserves of fossil fuel. The country is forced to import energy in order to meet its local demands.

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The country imports about 64% of the energy it uses in terms of natural gas, oil, and electricity from various countries in the region. According to the recent survey by Kalogirou (2006, p. 56), it was found that Thailand is spending over 12% of its on importation of oil. This is always affected by the fluctuating prices of oil in the international market.

The country is still on its path towards greater economic success despite the recent political instability following the coup de tat. Heavy reliance on imported on may affect its ability to achieve economic success. The country needs alternative sources of oil that can help in reducing the heavy reliance on imported oil.

High dependence on electricity imports from Laos and natural gas imports from Myanmar has largely been considered as the main impediment to the growth of the countrys economy. The expanding middle class and the growth in population of major cities like Bangkok means that the demand for natural gas is on the rise.

The government, through the Ministry of Energy, announced its intention to find alternative sources of energy in order to reduce reliance on imported energy. Renewable energy has been considered to be the solution to the current energy problem in this country.

According to Andexer (2008, p. 31), the government of Thailand has made a commitment to increase renewable capacity target by 51 percent, from the current 9,201 MW to 13,927 MW by end of 2021. Through this initiative, 20% of the electricity consumed in the country will be produced from renewable sources.

According to Chiras (2011, p. 40), the target of this initiative consists of output from biomass to be 4,800 MW, solar 3,000 MW, biogas 3,600 MW, wind 1,800 MW. The hydropower and waste will also be expected to produce considerable amount of energy to the grid.

This is an ambitious project that is expected to transform the economy of this country by 2030. The government announced that this initiative will help in reducing the need for importation of energy by more than 75%. The renewable energy policies in this country were developed after an analysis of similar projects that have been done elsewhere, especially in Europe, the United States, and China.

According to Andexer (2008, p. 87), when formulating policies, it is important to note that there may be some challenges that may hinder the implementation of this ambitious policy. These policies were developed after analysing the process that has been taken by other countries. However, it is important to note that the environmental conditions in these foreign countries are not the same as what we have in the country.

There are some fundamental differences that should be put into consideration in order to determine how the local policies can be made unique to suite the local environmental forces. One such fundamental difference is technological advancement. Most of the countries that have made positive progress such as Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, and China are more technologically advanced that Thailand.

Their economies are also stronger. This means that the challenges they may face in their renewable energy policies are different from that of Thailand. This means that it is necessary to conduct research to identify these local forces and incorporate them in the policies. This research will focus on the challenges encountered by renewable energy policies, with a special focus given to Thailand.

Research problem
Thailands overreliance on imported energy has affected its economic growth in the recent past. The policy makers have conducted research, and have realised that lasting solution can only be found in the renewable energy. The government has rolled out ambitious plan on how to expand production of energy from renewable sources. This plan will help in reducing the overreliance on imported sources of energy.

The environmentalists have also complained that fossil fuel has serious negative consequences on the environment. Increasing the countrys production of renewable energy is necessary as a major step towards protecting our environment.

This project is, therefore, not only important in increasing the countrys energy independence, but also in conservation of the environment. However, there are some challenges that may affect the ability of the country to achieve its targeted energy output.

Unless this problem is addressed within the shortest period possible, it may not be possible for the country to realise its target. In this study, the researcher seeks to identify these challenges, and how they can be addressed by various stakeholders.

Research objectives
Conducting research is a complex process and Bryman (2008, p. 45) says that it is important to ensure that the process achieves its intended target. In order to achieve success, it is important to set that will help in determining whether the intended goal has been achieved. The following are the specific research objectives that should be achieved in this study.

Identify the challenges of the policies and other incentives that are being used to provide growth in the renewable energy market in Thailand.
Examine and evaluate various aspects regarding the renewable energy market, additionally providing an analysis of the effects (benefits and drawbacks) of these regulations.
Provide recommendations based on the possible gaps in the subject and opinions of individuals involved with the renewable energy sources in Thailand.
This research is, therefore, justified because it will form an important part of policy formulation. When formulating the policies, it is always necessary to identify some of the challenges that may be faced, and this is the role that this research will play.

This will help in making the policies realistic and conscious of some of the local forces that may affect it in one way or the other. The chapter below focuses on the review of literature on this topic.

Research questions
When conducting research, it is important to have a clear plan on how data should be collected. Working without a plan may have serious negative consequences on the quality of data collected, and the time taken to collect it. The researcher can easily be swayed into gathering information that is not relevant to the study if there is no clear plan on how the process will be conducted.

The researcher will rely on data collected from primary and secondary sources in addressing the research problem. Research questions will help in collecting precise information from these two sources. The following some of the questions that will help in guiding the process of collecting primary data.

What are some of the challenges encountered by renewable energy policies?
What is the impact of these challenges on the countrys effort to expand its renewable energy sources?
How can these challenges be addressed and who are the stakeholders responsible for this?
The above questions will form the foundation of data collection process. They will help in the development of the questionnaires that will be used in collecting primary data from the selected participants. They will also define the nature of secondary data that will be analysed in chapter two of this paper.

Literature Review
The field of renewable energy has attracted attention of many scholars as countries struggle to find alternative sources of energy which are environmentally friendly. Renewable energy policies have been developed in many countries to offer guidelines on how the stakeholders can approach the issue.

Craddock (2008, p. 58) defines renewable energy policies as Regulations or incentives that are created to encourage the use of renewable energy, and the main purpose of these policies is to increase the production of renewable energy. As shown in the definition above, the policies aim at finding ways through which production of renewable energy can be increased.

According to Chiras (2011, p. 39), although the main aim of increased focus on renewable energy is to reduce reliance on fossil fuel, environmentalists have also supported this move because of the need to reduce emission of greenhouse gases.

Fossil fuel has been considered one of the leading pollutants in the world. Reducing the usage of fossil fuel and focusing on renewable energy is the best way of finding solution to the environmental problems caused by excessive carbon emission into the atmosphere.

Renewable energy policies have played a significant role in promoting production of alternative sources of energy. According to Andexer (2008, p. 113), many countries have formulated various policies to ensure that the sector is properly financed. However, these policies have been encountering numerous challenges because of a number of reasons.

One of the main issues that have been identified by Da (2013, p. 67) is that relying on the success story of one country by another country may lead to disastrous results because of the differences in environmental factors. For instance, while solar energy may work very well in Sub-Sahara Africa that throughout the year, the strategy may not work well in parts of Russia.

The strategy that Germany uses because of its advanced technologies may not work well in Thailand that is still struggling with its technological sector. This means that the renewable energy policies that are to be used in Thailand must be developed based on local environmental factors (Chiras 2011, p. 90).

The challenges encountered in these policies can best be understood by first analysing the energy mix in this country, government institutions involved in the renewable energy sector, the private stakeholders role in formulation and implementation of the policies, and other related factors.

Many countries around the world have been concerned about the rising cost of fossil fuel, the dwindling oil reserves, and the impact of pollution caused by petroleum products. These are some of the main factors that have made many countries, both developed and developing, to consider alternative sources of energy. Renewable energy sources are considered the best solution to the above problems.

The United States is the largest consumer of energy in the world. It has developed policies that are focused on expanding its renewable sources of energy (Craddock 2008, p. 97). The country has specifically been focusing on hydropower, wind energy, geothermal, biogas among other sources of renewable energy.

Australia has also been keen on expanding its renewable energy sources. According to Andexer (2008, p. 48), the country has set aside A$24 billion to finance a project that targets to produce 20% of its power from renewable sources by the end of the year 2020.

The European Union countries also have a similar plan of achieving 20% of the total production of energy from renewable sources. According to Chiras (2011, p. 42), Germany is the Europes leading energy economy and the leader in renewable energy development. The country has developed policies that would help it to produce 35% of its local energy needs from renewable resources.

The percentage is expected to increase to 80% by 2050 (Beerepoot, Laosiripojana, Sujjakulnukij, Tippichai and Kamsamrong (2013, p. 14). Japan is another country that has been keen on expanding its renewable energy sources. According to Craddock (2008, p. 84), the country aims at producing about 35% of the energy used locally from the renewable resources.

After the Fu-Kushima disaster, Japan decided to destroy its nuclear energy plant. This means that it has to find alternative sources in order to reduce its overreliance of the fossil fuel imported from the Middle East and other parts of the world. In order to stimulate growth in renewable energy sector, the government introduced feed-in tariff as an incentive to the investors in this field.

This has stimulated development of renewable energy sector over the recent past as private entities rush to take advantage of this incentive. This strategy has worked in Germany and the United Kingdom, and Japan felt that it could yield good results in this country.

Energy Mix and Installed Capacity
It is important to understand the energy mix and installed capacity of various sources of energy in this country in order to determine the current position of renewable energy in Thailand. According to Beerepoot, Laosiripojana, Sujjakulnukij, Tippichai and Kamsamrong (2013, p. 23), Thailands total installed electricity generation capacity in 2011 was 31,773 megawatts.

This has increased over the last three years as the demand for energy has been on the rise lately. This has forced the government to import fossil fuel and electricity from the neighbouring countries. The government has made a concerted effort to boost its production of renewable sources of energy over the past decade.

Chiras (2011, p. 45) says, The installed capacity of renewable energy was 2,156.9 MW, or about 6.8 per cent of the by the end of the year 2011. This percentage has drastically increased within the past years following the enactment of Acts and policies meant to increase reliance on renewable sources. The following diagram shows the main sources of energy in Thailand from 1990 to 2011.

Figure 1: Energy Sources in Thailand from 1990 to 2011

Energy Sources in Thailand from 1990 to 2011
Source (Craddock 2008, p. 36)

As shown in the above diagram, most of the energy that the country has been using is from the fossil fuel. In the last 21 years, the consumption of natural gas has been on the rise. Given the fact that the gas is not found locally, the country has been forced to rely heavily on imports.

However, Craddock (2008, p. 59) says that the government has been keen on expanding the renewable energy sources to reduce overreliance on the fossil fuel. The country has majorly focused on the hydropower, wind power, geothermal, and biogas. Having a mix of renewable sources is important because it widens the scope of energy tapping.

Government Institutions in the Energy Sector
The government of Thailand has the sole responsibility of formulating and implementing renewable energy policies that are focused on expanding the countrys renewable energy production capacity (Da 2013, p. 74).

All other institutions are only expected to facilitate the government with the needed knowledge on what should be done. The government of Thailand has dedicated this function to the ministry of energy. The figure below shows the structure of the ministry of energy in this country.

Figure 2: The Structure of Thailands Ministry of Energy

The Structure of Thailands Ministry of Energy
Source (Da 2013, p. 57)

According to Da (2013, p. 56), the departments in the ministry of energy are structured in a way that they depend on each other in order to function properly. The Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency is responsible for the development of renewable energy in this country.

However, it is important to note that there are other departments which are also involved in the production of renewable energy within this ministry. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand is specifically concerned with the management of hydropower, which is one of the renewable sources.

The Energy Regulatory Commission and the Energy Policy and Planning Office are responsible for the formulation of policies, and monitoring their implementation in various sectors. The Department of Energy Business is the direct link between the government of Thailand and the private sector within this industry.

The Energy Fund Administration Institute draws the financial budget for the other departments in every financial year (Black & Flarend 2010, p. 78). It is, therefore, clear that all these departments are related when it comes to development and implementation of renewable energy policies within this country. The challenges faced by renewable energy policies can arise at any stage within the departments.

According to Smil (2014, p. 54), the Energy Fund Administration Institute is facing the challenge of balancing its limited budget on various activities involved in the production of energy. There is always a challenge in making the decision on whether to spend more on new research, expansion of existing renewable energy facilities, or on recurrent expenditure.

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand always faces the challenge on whether to increase investment into local production of hydropower or to continue relying on the cheap imported electricity.

The Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency has been struggling to find a working formula on how to corporate with the Energy Policy and Planning Office and Energy Regulatory Commission. As Da (2013, p. 78) notes, these challenges can be addressed effectively if these departments work together.

Key Legislation and Regulations
The ministry of energy in this country has been closely involving the parliament when formulating policies to regulate the production of renewable energy sources. Fundamental policies were enacted into law through various Acts. According to Da (2013, p. 43), National Energy Policy Act B.E of 1992 is one of the fundamental laws that that was enacted to help in policy formulation and regulation.

The National Energy Policy Council was established through this Act, and it has played a major role in promoting development of renewable energy sources. The Organisation of State Administration Act B.E 2002 is another landmark legislation in the recent times that has helped in the development of infrastructure in the renewable energy sector.

Development of renewable energy policies through legislation has been considered beneficial because it the all the stakeholders will be bound to adhere by it. However, Craddock (2008, p. 29) says that the main challenge that has been encountered when formulating policies through this approach is negative politics that is sometimes common in the parliament.

It is common to find the parliamentarians shooting down a good bill because the political climate is not conducive. In other cases, the parliamentarians would amend the bill to favour prevailing political environment. This is always worsened by the fact that most of the parliamentarians are not experts in this field, and therefore, may pass legislations that are counterproductive to the development of renewable energy.

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