Written by John Guzman
Protests that rattle Bangkok, since November of last year, slowed down the economic growth and decrease confidence among investors. A number of foreign governments advised their citizens to avoid travelling to Thailand unless necessary. The tourism industry must have then felt the blow of protests. However, against all odds, many Thai companies and investors see an opportunity and expect further growth in the economy, once the political turmoil is over. On the back of such growth is the capacity to generate sufficient electricity.
During the first quarter of this year, Permanent-Secretary of the Energy Ministry, Mr.Suthep Liumsirijarern, announced the country’s power consumption declined by 7%, citing factors such as an unusual cold weather. In addition, the nation’s prolonged political conflict that impacted the economy and led to a decreased in the number of tourists. Liumsirijarern added that April being the hottest month in Thailand would make power consumption surge, as reported by The Thai Financial Post.
Recent developments are short-term in nature. Political conflicts tend to be resolved after a while, as the case was in years 2005 and 2010. One of Thailand’s oldest conglomerates B. Grimm is putting things into perspective. The company looks at the long-term and invests for the long-haul. The company announced its plans to push through a massive investment amounting for THB 150 billion over a five-year period. At present, B. Grimm has the capacity to generate 3,000 megawatts. By 2019, 16 new power plants will have been built across Thailand with an aggregate additional capacity of 2,000 megawatts, as reported by the Bangkok Post. The investment would bring its power capacity to a total of 5,000 megawatts. Heavy investment would mean huge revenues as well and it is very clear B. Grimm is seeing a great demand for power by 2019.
B. Grimm, apart from its plans in Thailand, is also planning to tap into overseas ASEAN and Japanese markets in a bid to increase the company’s revenue to THB 100 billion within a period of eight years. B. Grimm Chairman, Harald Link, said in Bangkok Post on April 4, 2014 the company is considering two solar farm projects in Japan with a capacity of 40 megawatts each. Meanwhile in Mandalay in Myanmar, the company is one-step closer to build a 360-megawatt coal-fired power plant, where it has been shortlisted for the project. In Laos, the company is studying a hydroelectric power plant. The aggressive moves of B. Grimm -in establishing presence outside Thailand- invites a closer observation from other power companies, whether to follow suit or stay in the shadow.
A Japanese multinational company Sharp has also started in January its construction of a 52-megawatt large-scale solar power generation plant in the Thai “Lop Buri” province. The plant scheduled to operate by the end of the year. Upon operation of the said plant, Sharp’s aggregate power capacity in Thailand will have exceed 150 megawatts, as announced on Sharp corporate site.
In a separate development, the Malaysian conglomerate Melewar Industrial Group Bhd. announced its plan to sell the majority 51% stake it has in the Thai “MPerial Power Ltd.” for USD 11 million. The latter being the major shareholder in the loss-making Siam Power Generation Public Company Ltd. The decision was triggered by the shutdown of G Steel Public Company Ltd., due to financial difficulties, since 2011. The company, which was contracted to buy 70 megawatts from Siam Power’s production.
USD 1.00 = THB 32.30
–Edited by Mohamed P.Hassan