Thailand: at a crossroads between a dirty past and a green future

Thailand is at a crossroads. With recent political changes, it is unclear what energy future Thailand’s new governments will promote, and whether the country goes green, or stays on the old path of fossil fuels.

Thailand has claimed to be a leader in the clean energy realm. Indeed, the country has made great strides in developing a feed in tariff and expanding solar, wind, and other renewable energies.

However, these positive changes conceal a dirty truth: Thailand is still addicted to coal. Greenpeace and others have already documented how coal harmed the environment and human health in Thailand. Far from quitting its filthy coal habit, the Thai authorities have promoted new coal-fired power plants in Krabi, Map Tha Put, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Chacheongsao, Trang, Chumphon, and Mae Moh, to add on to the existing coal-fired power plants. Indeed, there appear to be even more coal-fired power plant projects, beyond the ones listed above. The country’s leaders, especially officials at the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT), continue to embrace myths about clean coal. Thailand is even trying to export its dirty energy problems abroad to Myanmar.

It is time to quit fossil fuels and debunk the wishful thinking that has led to a love affair with the fantasy of “clean coal.” Thailand requires a full government investigation into how much coal costs the country. Rules for public debate and review must be expanded, regulations around coal ash promulgated, and stronger disclosure rules for toxic heavy metals guaranteed. Thailand needs public health decisions that protect human health, not fossil fuel lobbies. Thailand’s leaders can indeed reorient the country on to a more sustainable path, and ensure that Thailand becomes a real global leader in renewable energy and green growth.