Thai-German technical cooperation in the field of energy started with a project for the expansion of the power supply system as well as basic infrastructures.

  • In the beginning, cooperative efforts focused on strengthening agencies responsible for basic infrastructure.
  • Later in 1990s Thailand and Germany have been exploring and promoting alternative energy sources and on energy savings and efficiency issues.
  • Since 2000, energy has become one of the main issue addressed in various projects. Together with sustainable infrastructure, it has become a focal theme of the German–ASEAN cooperation based in Bangkok.

Thai-German technical cooperation in the field of energy started with a project for the Expansion of the Power Supply System. In 1962 the Advisory Group Lahmeyer was commissioned to assist and advise Thai authorities, in particular the Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA), in matters of supply, planning and further extension of the electric energy distributing system including reorganization of administration and tariffs. The planning of medium tension distribution projects (e.g. Yanhee Area 1st and 2nd stage, Nam Pong Area, etc.) formed the core of activities performed by the German advisory team, but it was also active in the supervision of construction, the setting-up of regulations and standards, as well as in developing the PEA’s administrative and organizational structure. Based on these efforts – and fostered by German technical assistance – a significant expansion of the power grid could be achieved: the number of consumers of the PEA more than doubled in electricity consumption increased 12-fold during the project’s eight years of duration.

Since then Thai-German technical cooperation has repeatedly provided assistance to the different energy agencies of Thailand, e.g. by the dispatch of a regulatory specialist for the National Electricity Authority (1967-1975), and by providing advisory and counseling services to the Energy Generating Authority of Thailand (1967-1974) and the Provincial Electricity Authority (1977-1979). The last in this series of activities was the PEA Training Center Expansion and Development Project (1993 – 2000), which had been initiated to provide further training and further qualification to PEA employees with the overall aim of ensuring adequate security and quality of supply in areas with high load density. Statistics show that this target could be achieved: A reduction of the systems average interruption frequency by 23,5 percent and of the average interruption duration by 38,2 from 1994 to 1998 was recorded.

Apart from consultancy services given to the Thai energy generating and distributing authorities, Thai-German technical cooperation was also active in promoting hydropower as source of energy, e.g. by conducting feasibility studies for dam projects at Nam-Mae-Kok and Lang Suan. Furthermore IWB, HYDROPLAN, and GOPA – consulting agencies, subcontracted by the German executing agency GTZ – supported the design of a comprehensive Master Plan of Small Hydropower Development (1990-1992) in the Kingdom of Thailand. Numerous feasibility studies were carried out to explore possible future sites for small hydro-power plants. The introduction and further development of the EMINI-computer programme for planning of small-scale hydropower station into the National Energy Administration’s operational routine as well as counterpart training concerning the use of EMINI, fieldwork survey and teamwork project planning completed the project.

Yet another energy resource was introduced into the Thai energy portfolio by the Thai-German Biogas Programme (1988 – 1994) which was successful in promoting the utilization of biogas for small-scale agro-industries and medium-sized pig farms in five provinces in Northern Thailand aiming both at the improvement of the environmental situation and an increase of living standards in these rural regions. Its multiplier effects and the positive attitude which gradually developed in the Thai public towards the new technology due to this project’s activities

Thai-German technical cooperation – during its 55 of existence – was active in various fields of infrastructure development, including road, railway and port infrastructure.

From 1967 to 1971 the Government of West Germany (through the company August Prien, Hamburg) provided assistance in designing 36 dolphins (mooring posts) for sea-going vessels in midstream of the Chao Phraya River and supervising their construction which was carried out by Italian-Thai Corporation Ltd., Bangkok. About 15 years later (1982-1987) dolphin facilities were improved and new berths were built at km 14.0 and km 28.0 on the Chao Phraya River with the financial help and technical know-how of German technical assistance (Prof. Dr. Lackner & Partners Consulting Engineers GmBH & Co KG).

In the field of road infrastructure Mr. Gerhard Baer was seconded to Thailand as expert for vehicle monitoring from 1965 to 1970. During this time he provided advice to the Inspection Section at the Licenses Division in the Police Department of Bangkok with the overall aim to improve the management and safety of traffic in Thailand. During his time of service a new MOT testing facility was planned and built and police officers were trained to carry out the inspections. A new driving test (theoretical and practical examination) was designed and the Thai traffic legislation was adjusted to the international standards of the “Convention on Road Traffic”. These measures had become necessary to keep up with the rapid increase and modernization of traffic in the country.

Beginning in the 1960s especially Bangkok experienced a chaotic traffic situation and a lack of data and prognoses made it impossible to develop adequate measures for action. Addressing this challenge the Bangkok Transportation Study carried out by F.H. Kocks AG designed a general transport plan for Bangkok with 1990 as target year including both transport systems and transport political measures. Keeping in mind the probably even more chaotic traffic situation in present-day Bangkok, one must, however, admit that the scope of this endeavor was far beyond what can be accomplished by a single project of technical cooperation. Similarly the secondment of German experts from Dorsch Consult and HAMBURG PLAN, Architects+Engineers within the framework of the Eastern Seabord Development Programme (1987-1989) which included significant infrastructure components (port development, infrastructure planning, urban and regional planning) was only partly successful. Here, the different views and approaches of the 4 international advisor teams (Germany, Japan, France, UNDP) which were working together in this project and a lack of integration of the foreign experts into the local counterpart’s organizational structure hindered progress.

Thai-German technical cooperation concerning railway infrastructure was more successful. Following an institutional approach the project Advisory Assistance to the Management of the State Railway of Thailand (1987-1992) was active in the areas of marketing, management information system, traffic costing and accounting, maintenance management, maintenance of rolling stock, inventory material management and operations management, and therewith conceptualized to increase the efficiency of the State Railway of Thailand in the long run. From a political point of view, the project, which was implemented by DE-Consult, definitely made the SRT and the Government of Thailand realize that the Thai railway system constitutes a great national asset and deserves to play a major role in the national and regional transport market of the future.

The Transport Policy and Planning Project (1989-1994) and the advisory assistance provided to the Office of Accelerated Rural Development (1995 – 2002) also used an institutional approach in their efforts to improve the Thai infrastructure. The first project aimed at enhancing the performance of the Transport Planning Unit (TPU) within the Ministry of Transport and Communication with regards to efficient and coordinated transport planning methods as well as concerning the coordination of the transport sector. Training of counterpart personnel, advisory services as well as the development of a concept design for transport planning following the German “Bundesverkehrswegeplanung” should contribute to achieving the set target. The second project was designed to effectively strengthen the Office of Accelerated Rural Development which – still – is making fundamental contributions to the improvement of infrastructure in rural regions of Thailand. To this end adequate organizational structures and management tools concerning road maintenance management and equipment management were introduced and implemented in the pilot areas (Field Operation Center Prachantakhm and nine provinces in East Thailand) aiming at the transfer of relevant experiences to other Field Operation Centers via the head office in BKK.

In summary for Thai-German technical cooperation projects in the field of infrastructure, several features are worth mentioning: (1) Most of these projects which demanded in-depth technical knowledge were not implemented by German state executing agencies such as GAWI and GTZ, but by subcontracted private companies. (2) While earlier projects in this field primarily consisted of mere construction activities, later projects mostly followed an institutional approach of strengthening the respective partner organization. (3) As a result, while the earlier projects had visible results as their “end products”, e.g. mooring posts, the impacts and benefits of, for example, the Transport Policy and Planning Project and the advisory assistance provided to the State Railway of Thailand and the Office of Accelerated Rural Development were not immediately recognizable and are difficult to assess.

When I was still an officer in the energy policy planning office 15 years ago, I had a project together with the GTZ and Chiang Mai University on introducing biogas in Thailand. This was a small pilot project, nowadays are biogas plants everywhere. I have not forgotten German Technical Cooperation’s role in this sector.

- Piyasvasti Amranand, 24th November 2010, Thai Minister of Energy 2006-2008 and current President of Thai Airways International.

Some farmers had never used biogas or gas before. They were still using rewood and coal. But we didn’t force them to buy new equipment. We switched them over by connecting pipes or parts of an umbrella to a gas tube and placing it under the clay repot. Just like that, it worked.

- Mr. Manit Ompont, Thai-German Biogas Programme, former project officer from the Agricultural Extension Department, Chiang Mai