Energy Minister: Power supply critical on April 5

The postponement of planned maintenance on the Myanmar Yanada gas pipeline has not eased concerns of a power shortage in early April, with the Yingluck government warning of the need to cut electricity use during this critical period.

Energy Minister Pongsak Raktapongpaisarn said after meeting with energy officials on Wednesday that Total, the French operator of the Yadana field, had agreed to delay maintenance work on the pipeline, scheduled from the morning of April 4 to April 5, until April 14 as requested by Thailand.

But he warned of a possible shortfall of electricity on April 5, especially in the afternoon when electricity consumption usually peaks to 26,300 megawatts.

Thailand enters a long holiday period on April 6, starting with a three-day holiday until April 8, which is in lieu of Chakri Memorial Day on Saturday April 6. Then the Songkran holiday officially runs from April 12 to 16. Many people also take the extra days off in the middle.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and other cabinet ministers take off their suits to lead an energy saving campaign on Wednesday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

In an effort to encourage energy saving campaign ahead of the cutback in the natural gas supply from Myanmar, the cabinet on Wednesday announced officials in state agencies should not wear suits at work, to reduce the workload on airconditioners.

Air conditioners in state agencies nationwide should be reset to 25 degrees Celsuis or above, and power-save light setting in the workplace would also be enforced.

Cabinet ministers, including Prime Minster Yingluck Shinawatra, set an example by taking off their suit jackets at a meeting at Government House.

Mr Pongsak said the government will take the opportunity offered by a possible power outage to launch a campaign encouraging people to save energy at all times and put use of biofuels and renewable energy on top of the priority list.

However activists were not convinced by the rhetoric, accusing the government of having a hidden agenda in  drumming up fears about a possible power crisis.

The Consumer Protection Network said the call was explicitly aimed to revive a plan to build a nuclear power plant in the country, a plan which had faced massive opposition, and to justify an increase in electricity charges.

They urged the government to seriously look for alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind generated power, to ease the country's dependence on gas to power electricity generation.

No government had ever taken alternative energy sources seriously and theyhad let gas dominate the source of power, Prasart Meetam, a network member, said.

Jiraporn Limpananont, chairwoman of the Foundation of Consumers, called on the government to promote the use of solar cells in public, hotels and shopping centres, saying it is environmentally friendly.

Related search: Yanada gas field, natural gas supply interruption, power, energy, Myanmar

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Writer: Yuthana Praiwan and Penchan Charoensuthipan