In 2020, Thailand’s power mix was fossil fuel heavy, with natural gas making up a 66% share and coal representing 20%. To get on a 1.5°C pathway, the power sector would need to see a sharp increase in the share of renewables in electricity generation from 16% in 2020 to 57–67% by 2030. Thailand would need to phase out fossil gas between 2040 and 2042 at the latest and coal by around 2034. Thailand’s power sector’s emissions intensity would need to fall to 100–180 gCO₂/kWh by 2030, a 62–78% decrease from 2019 levels, and the sector would need to be fully decarbonised between 2033 and 2040.
A 1.5°C pathway could see renewables displace fossil fuels in the power sector and represent 100% of the mix by 2040. However, policy developments indicate that Thailand is not currently on track for achieving this. The government’s revised LTS aims for a 74% share of renewable electricity generation by 2050 and the revised Power Development Plan aims for renewables to represent only 37% of power generation by 2037., Thailand’s Energy Regulatory Commission also halted the connecting of new ground mounted solar and wind projects to the grid in 2016, disincentivising investment in renewables. At the same time, the 2013 feed-in-tariff, auctions, and community power programmes have not attracted large interest.
Thailand faces energy security supply risks as imports from neighbouring countries are sometimes cut due to maintenance. Renewable energy technologies offer a potential solution to diversify Thailand’s power mix and to rely on domestic energy rather than face the uncertainty of imports and price fluctuations. Studies have shown considerable potential for renewable energy in Thailand from solar, wind, biomass, ocean wave energy and hydropower.- Hydropower developments in the region can, however, negatively impact local communities in the lower Mekong area.
Paris Agreement compatible pathways show a high potential for renewable energy in the country. Having a 100% renewable energy-based power system by 2040 would avoid a reliance on carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies. A commitment to 100% renewable power sector would require policy certainty to secure investments.
Power sector in 2030
Thailand’s power system is heavily dependent on fossil gas, with an emissions intensity of 460 gCO₂/kWh in 2019. Given the sector’s important role in the country’s decarbonisation, all analysed pathways show its emissions declining rapidly. Decarbonising the power system requires a significant scale-up of renewable power technologies, including solar and wind power. Currently, the share of geothermal and hydro is negligible (around 2.5%) in Thailand’s power mix, with solar and wind contributing around 5% of electricity generation.
A stronger push for renewables uptake could result in emissions intensity dropping to 100-180 gCO₂/kWh as early as 2030 and align Thailand with a 1.5°C compatible pathway without having to rely on the use of CDR technologies. Thailand’s power system regulation is slowly transforming but faster action is required to achieve the necessary pace of emissions reductions.
Towards a fully decarbonised power sector
A full decarbonisation of the power sector is achieved in 1.5°C compatible pathways from as early as 2033, by phasing out coal by around 2034, followed by gas by between 2033–2040.
Thailand aims to rely on technologies such as CCUS and BECCS to achieve its long-term goal of “carbon neutrality” by 2050. Given the cost of these technologies and that they are not yet available at scale, a safer path would be to focus on fostering the development of renewable energy technologies instead.