Thailand: Power use surges to record high

The boiling hot weather in Thailand is causing an upsurge in electricity consumption, leading to a record high of 34,826.5 megawatts on May 6, says the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

The new record was reached at 9.41pm on Saturday, compared with 33,177.3MW at 2.30pm on April 28.

Thailand is seeing new power consumption records during the hot season every year. Normally the highest electricity usage occurs on weekdays, but the latest peak demand was recorded during last week’s four-day holiday.

The ERC said it was aware of people’s need to use cooling appliances, notably air conditioners, to relieve hot temperatures, but it still encourages the public to save electricity, which has become much more expensive over the last year.

The calculation of electricity prices is based on a progressive rate, meaning the more electricity people use, the more money they have to pay.

Power saving, or more efficient use of electricity, is part of five-point recommendations issued by the ERC to help people avoid paying costly electricity bills.

Others are setting the temperature of an air conditioner at 26 degrees Celsius, unplugging home appliances which are not used, using light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs, and growing trees to reduce temperatures in homes or offices.

Many users, especially entrepreneurs who need huge amounts of electricity to run their businesses, have decided to generate power themselves by installing rooftop solar panels.

Both businesses and households are paying a new power tariff of 4.70 baht per kilowatt-hour (unit) from May 1 to Aug 31, a slight drop from the first four-month cycle.

During the first four months of this year, businesses paid 5.33 baht per unit, up 13% from the previous record high of 4.72 baht per unit, while households paid 4.72 baht per unit.

Authorities are trying to help people, especially low-income earners, cope with expensive electricity bills.

Anucha Burapachaisri, the government’s acting spokesman, said earlier this month that the caretaker cabinet would submit a new proposal to the Election Commission (EC) seeking approval for a reduced 10.4-billion-baht subsidy for household power bills, 648 million baht less than the previous request that was rejected by the regulator.

The first proposal was for a 11.1-billion-baht subsidy, drawn from the government’s central fund.

In rejecting that idea, the EC explained that the supporting document had failed to mention it stemmed from a cabinet resolution.

The caretaker cabinet has limited financial authority pending the formation of a new government after the May 14 general election.

Summer is expected to end by the middle of May, while the impact of El Niño, including drought, is predicted to take its toll on Thailand by around the middle of June, the Meteorological Department said late last month.

El Niño is a natural cyclic phenomenon that causes ocean warming in the tropical Pacific, bringing drought to many countries, and rainfall and flooding to others.

The average maximum temperature was around 40C since the beginning of April, due in part to the impact of a low-pressure trough, not a heat wave; this had been the experience of India and Bangladesh since early April, according to the Meteorological Department.