Direk_LavansiriIn the first in a series of Asian Insights, we talked to Direk Lavansiri, professor emeritus and chairman of the Energy Regulatory Commission about the state of electricity regulation in Thailand.

How has the regulatory framework changed in Thailand, and/or Asia over the past 3-5 years?
Lavansiri: “The licensing powers of the ERC has meant the accounting separation of the generation, transmission, distribution and supply businesses even though some of these functions are within vertically integrated state utilities.

Even though a number of ASEAN countries have had regulators for a while, e.g. Cambodia, Singapore and the Philippines since early 2000s, there is now an active dialogue between the ASEAN regulators particularly focusing on cross border trade issues.”

What do you see the landscape looking like within the next five years?
Lavansiri: “With the involvement of the regulators from the different counties, there should be progress on the integration of the ASEAN Power Grid and the expansion of cross-border trade.”

How do electricity prices in Thailand differ from those of other parts of Asia?
Lavansiri: “Thailand prices are in the middle level compared to other ASEAN countries.

It is influenced by the fuel source. Since gas makes up nearly 70 per cent of Thailand fuel for power production, the electricity tariff is very sensitive to gas prices.

If the domestic gas supply diminishes and has to be replaced by LNG imports, this will have an impact on the price.

Thailand still wants to see coal power production to increase fuel diversity as well as coal being cheaper than gas.”

Can you give an idea of what types of tariff regimes are available to consumers, and what energy efficiency strategies are currently in place?
Lavansiri: “We have flat rate, progressive rate, time of use for government and non-profit, agricultural pumping and interruptible rate.

We are testing an energy efficiency programme called demand response and we expect to have regulations and programmes on this soon.

This will allow consumers to be compensated for cutting their electricity use and the system operator to be able to use demand Response to manage critical peak periods.”

Can you provide a breakdown of the number of prepaid, postpaid and smart meter customers in Thailand at the moment?
Lavansiri: “Almost 100 per cent is postpaid meters – prepaid and smart meters are just in the pilot stage.”

What is the single biggest driver for Thailand’s smart grid programme?
Lavansiri: “To optimize generation and reduce network congestion costs.

Additionally abundant renewable energy resources in Thailand such as solar power, biogas, and biomass require smart grid to integrate them into the grid efficiently.

Smart grid can allow locational system balancing and minimize or make more efficient transmission and distribution investment costs.

It allows for the better use of demand response resources to reduce power usage at peak periods.”