Political unrest hinders Thai rooftop solar

The continuing political unrest in Thailand is holding up the roll-out of the country’s rooftop solar plans, which were originally scheduled to start two weeks ago.

With the country wracked by protest movements against the divisive regime of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the dissolution of parliament last month has left the solar industry in limbo.

The southeast Asian country’s solar plans had included legislation to enable to commercial sale of rooftop-generated energy into the national grid with the new act planned to come into force on December 31.

According to a report in Thai national newspaper The Nation, the deadline for enactment of the legislation was initially moved back to the end of this month with Yingluck subsequently announcing new elections will go ahead on February 2.

The Nation reports that even if a new government is elected and the rooftop commercial sale legislation enacted, there is little prospect of the Provincial Electricity Authority or the Metropolitan Electricity Authority issuing the Ror Ngor 4 permits required for residential rooftop installations in the near future nor of the country’s Civil Works Department issuing the permits required to alter residential buildings to accommodate rooftop panels.

With residential installations making up 80% – or 6,040 – of the 7,521 applications accepted by the electricity bodies for rooftop solar, the lack of permitting caused by the political vacuum is a huge blow for the industry.

Solar lobby group to meet installers

Dusit Krue-ngarm, president of the Thai Photovoltaic Industries Association, told The Nation his organization will meet installers on Wednesday to discuss the impact of the political troubles on the industry and how to deal with them.

Although residential systems dominate the rooftop market in terms of application numbers, they add up to only 52 MW of the 500 MW of successful applications which far surpassed the government’s 100 MW target for the first round of roftop projects.

Prime minister Yingluck has been accused of corruption in connection with a deal to sell rice to China and is a controversial figure as the sister of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by the Thai military for alleged corruption and exiled in 2006.

Simmering unrest flared up again last year when Yingluck’s party failed in its attempt to introduce an amnesty which would have allowed her brother – the former owner of English Premier League soccer club Manchester City – to return.

In the face of rising civil disorder backed by the opposition Democrat party, Yingluck dissolved parliament last month and announced new elections will be held on February 2.