Interview with Prof. Direk Lavansiri, Chairman, Energy Regulatory Commission, Thailand
Exciting times lie ahead for the Thai electricity utility industry with several projects being planned or under development for smart metering, smart grids, renewables integration and interconnection of transmission networks with ASEAN partner countries. From a regulatory point of view, where do you see as the biggest challenges for the Thai electricity transmission and distribution industry?
In terms of barriers and challenges, utilities might be discouraged by the huge initial investment in smart grid, which includes the cost of equipment, marketing campaigns, establishing distribution channels, and other management costs. We look forward to setting up a standardized context for the utility implementation of smart grid and revising the tariff structures based on the tariffs review, network and system operation regulation and demand response program studies.
In order to roll out smart metering and smart grid, ERC will need to prepare a roadmap together with a regulatory impact assessment to detail the appropriate regulatory model to ensure benefits to both operators and consumers. We also believe that there can be benefits in Thailand’s power development plan process, which is being reviewed based on the supply side and economic forecast. We aim to incorporate the use of integrated resources planning (IRP), in which the demand side will be taken into account. Smart meters and smart grid will play an important role in this. We believe that billing customers by actual consumption at the time of use will result in them adjusting their consumption habits to be more responsive to market prices.
In addition, all electricity utilities and private entrepreneurs should collaborate in the development in order to achieve the optimum efficiency and to have the same understanding of the process and strategy vision of how to achieve smart grids. Setting up a smart grids working group in order to exchange and transfer knowledge as well as to follow up the technologies and trends will push forward knowledge development and a common vision for smart grid.
What’s your vision for the industry looking forward?
The vision for the electricity networks of the future, smart grids, will lead to new products, processes and services, improving industrial efficiency and use of cleaner energy resources while providing a competitive edge for our country. At the same time, it would ensure the security of the infrastructure, helping to improve the daily lives of ordinary citizens. All this makes smart grids an important element for achieving the knowledge-based economy.
Where do you think ASEAN is heading in particular?
The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is moving towards year 2015, when all ASEAN member countries are committed to join into a region-wide energy network including the establishment of an ASEAN power grid (APG) and Trans-ASEAN gas pipeline (TAGP).
Networking of energy grids across the region is the next step of current ASEAN energy cooperation which is being operated under the ASEAN Plan of Action on Energy Cooperation (APAEC). The project encompasses seven key areas of cooperation including, in addition to the APG and TAGP, coal technology, and clean coal, renewable energy, energy efficiency and conservation, regional energy policy and planning, and nuclear energy.
Smart grid could be a future for ASEAN. A number of countries are investing in research, implementation and promotion of smart grid technology in order to improve national grid reliability, and in effect to a degree never before possible, accommodate renewable energy sources. This also aims to potentially reduce our carbon footprint and introduce advancements and efficiencies yet to be envisioned.
What is on ERC’s calendar this year?
ERC made a significant achievement as host of the 2nd Annual Meeting of the ASEAN Energy Regulators’ Network (AERN) and the 4th Annual International Forum 2013, entitled “Interconnectivity and Cross–Border Trade,” in order to promote regional collaboration on energy management and give the rise to energy security in the region towards the vision of ASEAN Economic Community. The meeting, in which energy regulators from Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam participated, outlined a work plan to enhance regional connectivity and sustainable development for AEC in 2015. All AERN members are encouraged to share their 2013 calendars of planned seminars, forums or training programs which might be of interest to other members to participate in as part of capacity building and exchange of best practices. In addition, a member country may host a workshop that brings in outside experts and that can be open to other member countries. Separate working groups should be formed to discuss the sub-activities among AERN member countries during the year, including activities related to the work of HAPUA.
ERC will report the work progress of AERN to the 31st SOME/AMEM in June 2013 and the 3rd Annual AERN meeting will be held in Thailand in early 2014.
What will be your message at the upcoming event?
Metering, Billing/CRM Asia will give participants a profound understanding of Thailand’s future smart grid initiatives, roadmap, regulatory environment, and outlook on global smart grid infrastructure, as well as share insights on future market developments, industry trends, and technologies. With the hope of a “hi-awareness” topic for utilities and government sectors to build up mutual interest through simple messages on a sustainable future, the convergence of IT and energy networks will make the “smarter future” possible to sustain our limited energy resources through network cooperation and engaging the future smart society together. We look forward to seeing you at this influential event.
Dr. Pallapa Ruangrong, Commissioner, Energy Regulatory Commission, Thailand will be speaking and participating in a panel discussion during the opening keynote at Metering, Billing/CRM Asia co-located with Transmission & Distribution/Smart Grids Asia 2013, on 22 May 2013 from 9:00 am. Take a look at the updated conference programme.