Thai university first in SE Asia with smart grid power

phayao6Phayao University in the northern province of the same name has become the first institute of higher learning in all of Southeast Asia to use smart grid technology in tandem with solar cells to generate its own power, a move that could pave the way for more widespread adoption of alternative energy in the region.

Smart grids employ information and communications technology to allow an energy system to manage power with higher efficiency throughout a grid. A smart grid is an essential component in managing and distributing power from renewable sources, helping optimize power generation by communicating between consumer demands and electricity generators.

Phayao University’s School of Energy and Environment (SEEN) is the only university in the region with programs in energy management and smart grid technology that offers master and doctoral degrees. SEEN is playing a role in smart-grid pilot projects in neighboring Laos and further afield in the Philippines with the aim of expanding the use of that technology in the energy-hungry 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“Smart grid technology is now at a developed stage and will become more widespread in the future,’’ said Associate Professor Wattanapong Rakwichian, dean of SEEN. He added that the technology will save the university money on energy bills.

Interest is growing in smart grid technology among Thai companies, and that will translate into more job opportunities for experts and professionals in the field. SEEN plans on playing an important part in producing a corps of professionals to serve both Thailand and other countries in adopting and implementing energy efficient solutions.

The Jakarta-based ASEAN Center for Energy (ACE), a regional energy policy agency, recently endorsed the University of Phayao as the founding institution of the ASEAN Smart Grid Congress. The Congress is a forum and network for smart-grid experts to share and exchange their knowledge and experiences.

Last December, SEEN organized and hosted the first ASEAN Smart Grid Congress, in which participants from 13 countries shared the latest advances in the technology and its implementation.

Meanwhile, the Thai government pushed ahead with its initiative to promote power generation from industrial waster, awarding contracts to seven companies that bid to produce a total of 30.78 megawatts from factory refuse, although the total was short of 50 megawatts the government was hoping for.

A total of 26 companies had submitted bids to the Energy Regulatory Commission. The firms that won the bids to develop the power plants were PG & C 5714 (2.5MW), Chonburi Clean Energy (6.9MW), Sabang Yangyuen Pichit (1.88MW), Progress Interchem (Thailand) (4MW), Inva Grand Energy (3MW), Recovery House (5.5MW) and Cementhai Energy Conservation (7MW).