Understanding Barriers to the Use of Renewable Energy for Remote Electrification by State Utilities in Thailand

EPA Grant Number: U915644
Title: Understanding Barriers to the Use of Renewable Energy for Remote Electrification by State Utilities in Thailand
Investigators: Greacen, Christopher E.
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Fields, Nigel
Project Period: September 1, 1999 through September 1, 2002
Project Amount: $78,115
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Social Sciences , Academic Fellowships , Economics and Decision Sciences


The objective of this research project is to understand the barriers that state electricity utilities face in the adoption of least-cost renewable energy technologies for remote electrification in Thailand.


Thailand presents an interesting case for observing the barriers and opportunities that state utilities face in adopting stand-alone renewables as an integral part of rural electrification programs. Thailand?s Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA), the country?s dedicated rural electricity utility, has successfully electrified 98.9 percent of rural Thai villages. The remaining 750+ villages are considered too remote to electrify with grid extensions. For these villages, the PEA is focusing on the use of stand-alone electricity generation?either diesel generators or renewable energy systems that harvest local flows of wind, sun, and falling water. The Thai Government?s National Energy Policy Office (NEPO) has taxed the sale of fossil fuels in the country, creating a substantial fund for energy conservation and renewable energy. The PEA?s ?20-islands project? will involve the use of this fund to build renewable energy systems for 20 of Thailand?s unelectrified remote communities.

Through surveys and interviews with inhabitants of the 20-islands villages, participant observation with PEA engineers, and interviews with decision makers, this research seeks to track the adoption of renewable energy technologies at a variety of levels from the village to the state. Embedded in the planning process and engineering designs are a number of subjective decisions, each with substantial consequences for costs, level of service provided, and project sustainability. Through interviews and surveys of villagers, the investigator hopes to understand how demand for electricity services evolves and is socially constructed. Through interviews and participant observation with the utility engineers, the research seeks to reveal how the utility comes to understand ?demand? and demand growth, and how these and other forces shape system design. Stand-alone renewables present new design constraints that require new planning approaches and methodologies that are foreign for utility engineers. How and why are decisions made to address these constraints? What are the narratives and meanings that accompany renewable energy at the level of the village, the state utility, and Thai government? The history of rural electrification in Thailand provides the basis for understanding the symbolic and political importance of electrification that overlay current dialogues about renewable energy and global climate change.

Expected Results:

New approaches for policy makers and rural development practitioners to improve the viability of sustainable development investments.

Supplemental Keywords:

microhydro, renewable energy, village power, common property, common pool resources, community scale, rural electrification, energy, sustainable development, Thailand., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Air, Geographic Area, Sustainable Industry/Business, Sustainable Environment, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Technology for Sustainable Environment, decision-making, International, Urban and Regional Planning, Atmosphere, Social Science, Economics & Decision Making, environmental monitoring, energy conservation, decision making, environmental priorities, barriers, conservation, environmental attitudes, environmental policy, energy consumption, renewable resources, resource recovery, rural electrification, remote electrification, renewable resource, social sciences, renewable energy, behavior reactions