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Thailand Electricity History

     On September 20, 1884 that was His Majesty King Rama V’s Birthday Anniversary, Chakri Maha Prasat Hall was electrified for the first time, which marked the start of Thailand’s electricity utility.

     The first electricity installation happened on December 31, 1879 at Melo Park, New Jersey, USA. Later in 1882, electricity was installed in London, Britain and Pearl Street Station in the south of New York, USA.

When Electricity was introduced to Thailand

     Electricity was introduced to Thailand by Field Marshal Chao Phraya Surasakdi Montri, then holding the title of Chamuen Vaivoranart. He purchased two electric generators from Britain with the money gained from the inherited land sold for 14,400 baht, and on September 20, 1884 that was His Majesty King Rama V’s Birthday Anniversary, Chakri Maha Prasat Hall was electrified for the first time, which marked the start of Thailand’s electricity utility.

Establishment of Bangkok Electric Light Syndicate

     In 1897, Luang Pinitjakraphan and an American man named Leo Nadee who were Chamuen Vaivoranart’s subordinates established Bangkok Electric Light Syndicate generating and selling the electricity to customers. However, the firm later sold its concession to a Danish company-Siam Electricity Co.,Ltd. Before that in 1888, the government sold the concession of tramway system to a Danish company in Bangkok. The tram at that time was drawn by the horse as there was no electricity, but 6 years later in 1894 the tram was driven by the electricity.

Wat Lieb Power Plant

     The Siam Electricity Co.,Ltd. was established on December 27, 1898 having the company registered in Copenhagen, Denmark with Aage Westenholz as the representative who was regarded one of the first foreign pioneers developing electricity system in the capital city of Thailand. The company and its power plant were located at Wat Lieb, so it was called Wat Lieb Power Plant. It was a thermal power plant using logs, coal, oil, and husk as the fuel. The operations of the company kept progressing and in 1908 merged Bangkok Tramway Co., Ltd.

Sam Sen Power Plant

     In 1912 His Majesty King Rama VI allowed Chao Phraya Yommarat, the Minister of Metropolis Ministry to establish Sam Sen Waterworks Authority and Sam Sen Power Plant. The power plant construction was completed and started its commercial operation in 1914 under the name of “Royal Sam Sen Electricity Authority”. It was a government trade under the Ministry of Interior.

Dividing responsible areas

     Since 1914 electricity service in the metropolis had been firmly established, with Wat Lieb Power Plant of Siam Electricity Co., Ltd. supplying power for the southern areas of Bangkok and Sam Sen Power Plant covering the northern areas of metropolis.

Electricity in Provincial Areas

     The Ministry of Interior realized that the provincial areas that were densely populated should have power plants, contributing to the establishment of “Electricity Section” under Public Health Department, the Ministry of Interior. Its mission was to survey the areas and provide the electricity supply in provincial areas. Before that, there was a power plant constructed in Ratchaburi Province providing the electric power since 1927, and it was later under the responsibility of Electricity Section that bought one more electricity generator. In Nakhon Pathom, a power plant was constructed and started its commercial operation on January 19, 1930, charging customers 1.80 baht per unit for the electricity price. After the Siamese Revolution in 1932 from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, the power supply was expanded to Prachin Buri, Phuket, Nakhon Nayok, Chon Buri, Ban phong, Chanthaburi, and Chiang Mai. In 1934, the Electricity Section was elevated to be “Electricity Department”

Electricity during the Second World War

     The Second World War was originated in Europe in 1939 when Siam was changed to Thailand. On September 28, 1939, Siam Electricity Co., Ltd. was also changed to Thai Electric Corporation Limited. In April 1945 when the Second World War had already spread into Thailand, Wat Lieb Power Plant and Sam Sen Power Plant were badly damaged by bombs, making the country face a lack of electricity and water. Thai Electric Corporation Limited took 2 months restoring Wat Lieb Power Plant that was least damaged to start its operation again. However, the company took 4 years to restore heavily damaged Sam Sen Power Plant which started producing the electricity again in June 1949. In other provinces, Electricity Department, Municipal Construction, was responsible for restoring the damaged power plants.

Electricity after the Second World War

     At the end of the Second World War, the country was restored and significantly grew contributing to the shortage of electricity. The government was committed to solving this problem by assigning Royal Irrigation Department exploring hydropower source and Department of Mineral Resources exploring lignite. Later, many electricity-related organizations were established as follows:

  • On January 1, 1950 “Bangkok Electric Works” was established after the concession of Thai Electric Corporation Limited had ended.
  • In 1951, Power Plant Construction Committee was established and later renamed to Thailand Electricity and Energy Committee in 1952 and renamed again in 1953 to “National Power Office”. It is now Energy Policy and Planning Office.
  • In 1954, “Lignite Electrical Power” was established and became Lignite Authority (LA) in 1960 being responsible for generating and transmitting electricity in the south of Thailand.
  • In 1954, Provincial Electricity Organization was established and later became Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) in 1960 being responsible for distributing electricity across the country except the area under the responsibility of Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA).
  • In 1957, Yanhee Electricity Authority (YEA) was established to be responsible for providing power supply for central and northern provinces. YEA constructed a hydropower plant at Bhumibol Dam in Tak and a thermal power plant with the installed capacity of 75 MW at Bang Kruai District in Nonthaburi Province, nowadays called North Bangkok Power Plant. It was the biggest power plant of the country starting its commercial operation in March 1961 with its transmission line interlinking with Sam Sen Power Plant.
  • On August 1, 1958 Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) was established by merging the Bangkok Electric Works and the Electrical Division of the Public Works Department to be responsible for providing power supply in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, and Samut Prakan.
  • In November, 1959, Lignite Authority (LA) installed two 6.25 MW-generators at Mae Moh District, Lampang Province using lignite from Mae Moh Mine as the fuel and transmitting the electricity to the city through 69 volt transmission line that is the first high voltage transmission line of the country, contributing to the secure power system in Lampang. Later, there was the transmission line extension from Lampang to Lamphun and Chiang Mai.

Power system under the National Economic and Social Development Plan

     The National Economic and Social Development Plan 1 was implemented in 1961 when North Bangkok Power Plant was completely constructed and started its commercial operation, contributing to the end of power shortage in Bangkok Metropolis. The North Bangkok Power Plant was inaugurated by Chompol Sarit Thanarat and Lincoln B. Johnson then holding Thai Prime Minister and American Vice President respectively on May 17, 1961. Because of the rapid growth of electricity demand, Yanhee Electricity Authority (YEA) installed the second generating unit at North Bangkok Power Plant in 1962, and it firstly started its operation in 1963.

NEEA Establishment

     In 1962, the government established the North-East Electricity Authority (NEEA) to provide power supply in north-eastern provinces. It constructed Ubol Ratana Dam in Khon Kaen and Nam Pung Dam in Sakon Nakhon.

Power Plant in the South

     Lignite Authority (LA) operated the Lignite Mine in Krabi and constructed Krabi Power Plant using the lignite as the fuel. The power plant started its operation in 1964 and transmitted the power through high voltage transmission line from Krabi Power Plant to other 7 southern provinces. Krabi Power Plant terminated its operation on September 30, 1995.

Bhumibol Dam Hydropower Plant

     Yanhee Electricity Authority (YEA) took 7 years constructing a big hydropower plant at Sam Ngao District in Tak Province with the transmission line providing the power supply to many provinces including the northern provinces like Lampang, Lamphun, and Chiang Mai. The dam was named after His Majesty King Rama IX as Bhumibol Dam. His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit inaugurated the dam and the power plant on May 17, 1964.

Small Power Plants

     In 1969, Thai power system was quite small consisting of 70 small private concessions and 350 small diesel power plants under the responsibility of Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA) providing the electricity to communities during the night. Later, the third thermal generating unit was installed to North Bangkok Power Plant, while there was the construction of diesel power plant in Phuket, gas turbine power plants in Nakhon Ratchasima and in Udon Thani, and the installation of gas turbine generators in the metropolis: one at Bang Kapi, one at Bangkok Noi, and two at South Bangkok.

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