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Thailand to use smart grid to predict outages

One of Thailand’s major utilities plans to use data from a smart grid and smart meters to track and predict electricity outages in the future.

An Inspector (ICT) from the Metropolitan Electricity Authority stated that the Government aims want to use smart grid technology to improve the distribution of power to customers. The region has smart meters to do the measurement and collect the big data in a data lake. Here, it will be analysed to understand reasons for outages.

MEA supplies power to Bangkok and two other provinces, serving 3.8 million customers. It has been a leader in Southeast Asia in using digital to better serve customers. For instance, its customers have been able to pay bills on MEA’s smartphone app since 2012 – years before other utilities in the region offered the service.

In the future, it plans to use data on its customers to understand their behaviour and improve service delivery. For example, the utility wants to understand why some people pay bills late. This will allow it to tweak services to encourage people to settle bills before their due dates.

It was noted that learning to behaviours of customers is extremely important when trying to understand why they pay for electricity late.

The utility plans to build a smart grid covering 9 square kilometres, costing THB1.5 billion (US$48.5 million. Public hearings for the smart grid need to be held before procurement, but MEA plans to sign the contract this year,” the utility’s Governor said.

A key step in this process will be to improve Thailand’s connectivity infrastructure through 5G technology, Pothipaki believes. “I have the budget, but the infrastructure is not under control of the MEA – it is under the control of the government.”

Thailand, like its neighbours in the region, is going through a deregulation of its electricity retail market. The country’s two state-owned utilities, including MEA, have so far held a monopoly, but the government plans to allow other businesses to supply power.

In the future, the MEA will not have a monopoly. Thus, change is necessary; costs will be reduced for MEA and have more revenue from non-core businesses.

In November 2018, a report noted that a smart grid pilot was put into action in the Thai province of Mae Hong Son, to integrate and balance growing shares of renewable energy using battery energy storage systems (BESS).

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and the country’s Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) signed an agreement to investigate the use of batteries under the country’s Smart Grid Master Plan, a five-year development plan signed off in 2016.

An expert team from Chulalongkorn University found in a recent study that Mae Hong Son, a remote and mountainous province in northern Thailand lacking in existing large-scale power plants is a suitable area for using smart grid technology to enhance local generation and distribution of electricity.

At present, the region gets its power through PEA transmission lines, through hydro and solar power and a diesel power plant. Outages are frequent and the two partners will investigate how the reliability of local energy supply can be improved, in a project aimed at sharing information and studying the management of power supply.

The announcement comes just under a year after EGAT announced battery energy storage to be a “new dimension” for the management of electricity.

Thailand has around 1,031MW of pumped hydro storage already, and is apparently planning to deploy a further 2,100MW.

EGAT identified however that batteries can be deployed more quickly and taking up far less space, while offering fast response times and other advantages in the way it can be controlled and used for a variety of applications.

Thus, the Thailand Government is working to shift the way energy is tracked and distributed across the country through the use of smart city technology.

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