Thailand's power industry could benefit greatly from the "smart grid" technology, which enables consumers and electricity utilities to become inter-connected and to gain intelligence information on their real-time supply and demand behaviour.
Martin Hauske, managing director of Accenture's Smart Grid Services in Asia Pacific, said an Accenture survey found that energy utilities could potentially see their revenues shredding by 15 per cent from an evolution of new energy technologies that include energy conservation and demand response, energy efficiencies, energy substitution, and distributed generation resources.
Accenture, a leading global consulting firm, has joined forces with Chulalongkorn University to advise a Thai power utility to develop its roadmap toward the smart grid system.
Eighty-five utilities executives from 20 countries took part in the study, which also found a growing threat in the areas of greater competition and rising risk of grid faults.
The impact of new technologies on utilities' revenues is estimated at up to US$48 billion (Bt1.61 trillion) in the United States, and up to 61 billion euros in Europe, based on the potential power load reduction.
More opportunities than threats
However, in the case of Thailand, Hauske said he foresees more opportunities than threats for the country to leverage new technologies, including distributed energy resources such as solar power and energy storage technologies to lower its electricity costs.
"And since Thailand is heavily relying on [natural] gas, so to replace it with renewable energy is an advantage for Thailand," he said.
Hauske said solar power has already reached the "tipping point" to gain the "grid parity" in most parts of the world, including Thailand.
But due to the intermittent nature of renewable energy, the country needs to strengthen the reliability of its power grid through "digitising" it with analytics technology, automated system, and on the consumers side, smart meters.
Sompith Kitcharoen, managing director of Accenture Thailand's resources clients group, said under the current plan laid down by the Energy Ministry's Energy Policy and Planning Office (EPPO), it would take Thailand about 30-35 years to roll out smart grid systems nationwide.
The Cabinet has already approved the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) to deploy the first smart grid as a pilot project in Pattaya, where electricity consumers will have to convert their power meters to digitally-connected meters.
The authorities are considering two or three "micro grid" projects to be implemented in smaller areas around the country.
However, sources said the EPPO turned down a PEA proposal to invest in an energy storage facility that would help improve the effectiveness of the smart grid project in Pattaya, even though the cost of such a facility fell by one-third to US$10 million.
Sompith said the smart grid was a worthwhile investment since it could help the state to reduce its investments because power utilities and consumers could adjust their production and consumption behaviours to optimise their
Through leveraging the real-time information, utilities can also potentially reap additional revenues from providing new service businesses such as energy consultancy and leasing of solar photovoltaic equipment, electric vehicles, and home area networks (HAN). It can also help decrease non-technical losses such as criminal activities, electricity smuggling, and power transformer failures, since the utility can detect real-time electricity consumption from the smart meters.
"iPhone only started in 2010 and now everyone uses a smart phone. Breakthrough in technology may also occur in the electricity industry. Regulators should keep in mind this speed of change," Hauske said.
Satyajit Dwivedi, director of Energy & Strategic Initiatives, SAS Institute said the term "smart grid" represents significant technology projects underway at many utilities today.
Utilities not only implement new meters at homes and businesses, but they also instal new devices along the power lines and transmission networks.
"The capabilities that these new technologies enable - such as time-of-use energy pricing, sophisticated outage management, and theft detection - are intended to help meet growing energy demands without building new air-polluting plants,"
He said 240 million smart meters are anticipated to be deployed across Europe by 2020.
Source: The Nation
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