Koh Tao, Thai mainland set to be connected via submarine electric cables

The Thai Cabinet has agreed with the Ministry of Interior’s proposal to link Koh Tao to the mainland with submarine electrical cables at a cost of 1.76 billion baht ($56 million).

The Prime Minister’s Office spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat on Tuesday said 444 million baht would be paid to the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA), which would be responsible for installing the submarine power cables.

The PEA was allowed to take out a 1.33 billion baht loan to develop the project but also has to manage coral reefs during the process, according to a resolution by the Cabinet in 1992 to preserve the marine ecosystem.

The project to extend the capacity of electricity on Koh Tao will support higher demand as it is an important tourist attraction with the potential to expand economically.

One set of 33KV power cables will run from Koh Phangan to Koh Tao, a distance of 45 circuit kilometres, and the power supply system will have a distance of 21km with two automatic voltage regulators.

The move is part of the Energy Policy and Planning Office’s (Eppo) 2017-2021 four-phased smart-grid plan, which aims to make Thailand the electricity hub of Asean and create new business for energy producers.

Earlier this month, Eppo spokesman Anirut Thanakornmontri said it is working with three electrical authorities – the PEA, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand and the Metropolitan Electricity Authority in pioneering the Ministry of Energy’s smart-grid project.

“The mega-project is divided into four phases – preparation [2015-2016], short-term projects [2017-2021], medium-term projects [2022-2031] and long-term projects [2032-36].

“The short-term projects will include the development of pilot projects to test technical suitability and investment feasibility of each technology,” said Anirut.

He said projects in the current phase will largely cover expansion of alternative power grids and energy system management, such as the smart-grid initiative in Pattaya that aims to change 116,308 old meters into smart meters within the year, and the microgrid pilot project that aims to create an independent energy ecosystem with built-in energy storage system (ESS) that does not rely on main power lines.

“Eppo is also working on research projects for electric vehicles that cover the expansion of electric vehicle charging station networks and development of mobile applications to manage the charging time.

“The 11 pilot stations scattered nationwide are expected to be operational in April,” he said.

Some projects will be user-focused, such as the PEA’s Power Pack project, which aims to establish portable ESS within users’ homes to support the installation of solar rooftops, which will be more mainstream in the future.

“This project has already come up with a 5kW mini-ESS that could be fitted in the user’s house.

“It will be a solution for communities in rural areas and could generate new business opportunities for local power producers.

“Eppo expects that projects in the short-term phase will collectively help reduce the consumption of electricity from main facilities by at least 300MW through the establishment of at least three microgrids.

“Other benefits of these projects are to reduce power outages and malfunctions, as well as increase the production of renewable energy by at least 15 per cent,” Anirut added.