Community Power Plant for Grass Root Economy in Thailand – Origin and Journey

This project’s full name is “Community Power Plant for Grass Root Economy”. It was first conceptualized during the former Energy Minister, Mr. Sontirat Sontijirawong, in 2019. At that time, He had a great plan on building countrywide power plants using renewable energy sources such as energy crop, napier grass, biomass, wastewater, organic wastes or agricultural wastes and simultaneously support the grass root economy who provide the sources of these raw materials through Community Enterprises and Networks of Community Enterprises.

The stakeholder participation meeting for this project was arranged on 13rd March 2020 by Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency (DEDE) of the Ministry of Energy, Thailand. At that time, the project was open for various kinds of feedstocks which include single feedstock, multi feedstocks or hybrid and solar/hybrid. The definition of this project was

“The Power Plant (CPP) project is established with the engagement of the communities to acknowledge and agree in the construction. There shall be the shared benefits from the power plant to the communities through the Village Fund scheme. The communities shall have ownership in the production and electricity selling in collaboration with the investor (private sector and/or government sector) via community enterprises.”

Afterwards, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has announced the Notification of ERC re:  Supply of the Electricity from Very Small Power Plant (VSPP) on Community Power Plant for Grass Root Economy BE 2563 on 10th April 2020. Everything seemed to be going in the right direction and with a great pace. However, the sudden resignation of the former Energy Minister, Mr. Sontirat Sontijirawong, on 16 July 2020 has brought the whole project to a complete halt.

When the new Energy Minister, Mr. Supattanapong Panmeechao, took over the office on 5th August 2020, he demanded a re-visit of this project. As a result, DEDE and ERC have revised the concept and conditions of the project and announced the Notification of ERC re: Procurement of Electricity from VSPP – Community Power Plant Project for Grass Root Economy (Pilot projects) on 18th March 2021.

We can see that the project was back to square one after 8 months of consideration of the draft concept. The latest Notification has several differences to the previous one as follows:

  1. It requires bidding of the fixed Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) discount instead of scoring system based on benefits offered to the community.
  2. It limits the power export to the grid to be 75 MW for biomass power plants and 75 MW for biogas power plants. This comes to a total of 150 MW electricity exported.
  3. In the case of biogas power plant, it excludes FiT rate of 100% energy crop. The only FiT rate available is for 75% energy crop mixed with 25% wastewater and other waste.
  4. It provides tentative time schedule for the project to complete the bidding process on 31st  May 2021. The signing of Power Purchase Agreement shall be completed on 28 September 2021.

Unfortunately, due the Covid-19 situation in Thailand, the process has been delayed for several months. However, the final outcome of the winner was announced by ERC on 23rd September 2021. This marked the end of the long awaited project which took almost 2 years to materialize. Simultaneously this is truly the turning point for both biomass and biogas businesses in Thailand to be active and prosperous again. We have to thank Thai government, DEDE and ERC to deliver their promises and support to the renewable energy businesses with the collaboration of the communities all over the country.

In the next article, we shall explore the key interesting factors of this project and how it will shape Thailand renewable energy businesses in the years to come.

By Admin of Papop

Papop is the leading green technology provider in Thailand. Papop is also the turnkey solution provider for biogas community power plant using the effective CSTR process.