Renewable Energy Hybrid Grid Systems for Thai Islands

While Thailand has done well in electrifying the country with a 99% electrification rate, about 180 islands in the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea rely on electricity generated by diesel engines, either on household level or supplied by a private operator selling power to the community.
The supply of electricity to these islands is limited, expensive and intermittent. Diesel generators typically operate only 4-6 hours a day. The generation costs are high compared to national electricity tariffs and sometimes difficult to afford by local communities.
Objective and Approach
Renewable-Energy-Diesel Hybrid Grid Systems could reach the last mile with reliable electricity access for off-grid communities in Thailand. They are a potential answer to limited electricity access and expensive, intermittent supply.
However, potential investors cannot assess the feasibility of such systems because proper studies are missing. Therefore, the project will study and develop community-based business models and appropriate modes of operation to ensure local value creation and long-term operation. In particular, it will:
  • Identify suitable islands
  • Select some of these for site assessments
  • Conduct site assessments
  • Prepare feasibility studies on how to combine renewable energy systems to power the local communities
  • Develop locally anchored business models
  • Identify professional partners that install and maintain the systems
  • Support the installations process
  • Provide training to island communities
A locally anchored business model which adds value in the community is key to success. A community operated “Renewable Energy Service Company (RESCO)” supported by professional technical training and supporting structures seems a promising option. The local population gains twice: a reliable energy access is improving the livelihood as well as the economic situation of the community by local value creation.
RE-Diesel Hybrid Grid Systems offer potential to use power more productively at a more affordable rate having a positive impact in various sectors:
  • Business and job creation
Local shops, restaurants and small businesses are enabled by more reliable energy supply. These new businesses not only generate income, but also create new jobs for the local community.
  • Environmental benefits
Reduced diesel transport and storage as well as operation of generators will have  direct environmental benefits because of less air, noise, sea and soil pollution. It will also contribute to mitigate GHG emissions.
  • Education
The overall learning environment will be improved due to reliable and continuous electricity supply and avoided noise and air pollution from diesel generators.
  • Access to clean water
Access to electricity allows water purification and pumping of new water reserves to meet clean water demand which is usually a challenge on Thai islands. Plastic waste will be reduced and high water prices are avoided due to a decreased transport of bottled water from the mainland.
  • Health
Having reliable and continuous electricity access, the medical services of local health centers could be extended as medicine cooling and operation of medical devices is enabled.
  • Food preservation
Better access to cooling devices will have double benefits for the local community: Their private food preservation will improve as they are able to store their selling products and purchases over a longer time period. The fishing sector, one of the islands most important ones, will also benefit from a reliable energy supply as products can be preserved easier through cooling or drying devices.
  • Telecommunication/internet access
The mobile connection to most islands is running well, but the devices can only be charged during the operation hours of the diesel generators. A reliable energy supply will enable people to be more independent,  and Wi-Fi access will get more popular and can be integrated in medical centers, schools, public buildings etc. to ensure an easy access to information and communication.

Funding Partner: Rockefeller Foundation
It is for the first time that GIZ and the Rockefeller Foundation are joining forces, aiming to bring clean technology and sustainable business solutions to Thai islands to address the challenges they face.
The Rockefeller Foundation is supporting the project within the framework of their Smart Power for Rural Development Initiative (SPRD) to address energy poverty through a model that provides electricity through mini-grids for lighting and business use.

December 2016 – February 2017

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Site Selection Criteria Catalogue
A site selection criteria catalogue was developed based on GIZ best practices from projects implemented in Asia and Africa. The catalogue provided criteria according to which islands were selected within the project: Out of a stock of five previously identified suitable islands, GIZ selected three islands for a technical site assessment.  
Site Assessments
GIZ together with a technical consultant travelled to the three selected islands to conduct socio-economic and technical site assessments to evaluate the feasibility of RE-Hybrid Grid System implementation. All key findings are summarized in site assessment reports for each island. Based on the data and information gathered, two island were selected to pursue with the technical design of RE-Hybrid Grid.

Business Models
In parallel with the development of suitable technical designs for the RE Hybrid Grid Systems done by the technical consultant, GIZ worked on potential business models for the islands following a community-based approach to guarantee maximal benefit and added value for the respective communities (see "Potential Business Models"). The developed models were peer-reviewed by different stakeholders involved and refined. The most suitable business model and project setup for both pilot islands was identified in an iterative proccess.

Feasibility Studies - System Design
After data gathering and site assessment, the technical consultant calculated specific hybrid grid system designs for the two selected islands. The feasibility studies allow to assess not only the technology and system size suggested but also the investment amount needed.

Project Implementation Consortium
The most suitable business model for both islands is identified and project development parties are currently working on stakeholder management and first steps for system implementation. 

Final Report
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