Bulon Don Island is a part of Mu Ko Phetra National Park, Satun province and located 20 kilometres away from the mainland. With only 100 households, the majority of the residents run small-scale fisheries and boat tours for tourists.
As Bulon Don is under the supervision of the national park, there are many sensitive conditional issues that need to be considered with different parties in order to develop the basic utilities on the island. Generally, the households have limited access to the electricity generated by central diesel generators for 5-6 hours/day from 18:00 – 23:00 hrs. The households that need electricity share the fuel costs monthly based on a fixed price according to the size and number of electrical appliances they use and ranging from 300-700 THB/month. However, for those who need extra electricity for a freezer, the price will be 1,800 – 3,600 THB/month for local shops and 600-1,200 THB/month for household users. This is on top of having to purchase ice from the mainland, meaning that the community has an average energy cost of 900-3,000 THB/month.
GIZ Thailand in collaboration with Ministry of Energy and the Recharge Social Project have developed sustainable electrification with a solar home system. The implementation focuses on extending the duration of electricity use in areas that are outside the main electricity grid so that households can have sufficient electricity supply for essential home appliances (such as lighting, fan, television, refrigerator) as well as reducing energy costs. This activity is part of the Thai-German Climate Programme – Energy (TGCP-Energy) and was initiated in 2020 by exploring the energy situation and surveying the energy needs of the community to design the appropriate electrification system and monthly package. This is called the Solar Home System and can be classified into three packages as follows:
Small package (S) – 160 Baht per month – 35 Watts solar panel with charge controller and battery, 3 light bulbs and 1 fan
Medium package (M) – 300 Baht per month – 50 Watts solar panel with charge controller and battery, 2 light bulbs, 1 cylindrical light bulb, 1 fan and 1 television
Large package (L) – 900 Baht per month – 300 Watts solar panels with charge controller and battery, 2 light bulbs, 1 cylindrical light bulb, 1 fan, 1 television and 1 refrigerator.
Furthermore, a local community group was set up to oversee the operation and maintenance of the Solar Home Systems and to manage the “Pay as You Go”, a digital pre-paid system. This system is similar to a mobile phone recharging system. Power users purchase a prepaid code to unlock their Solar Home System for the months to come. This system has been used to assist in the management of the community. The community is also less burdened with forward investment costs.
This marks the first time “Pay-as-you-go” has been used in Thailand. It is expected that the implementation will empower the community in their energy management and could lead to greater access to electricity, additional income, and job creation for the community itself.
Bulon Don island project has been developed in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal no.7 “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all” by supporting locals to use clean energy by replacing diesel generators with Solar Home Systems, thus helping to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
This project promotes and ensures long-term sustainability through the establishment of local community and energy development in the form of ‘Energy as a service’ which helps generate income earned from selling electric power to the group members. This makes the people in the community more self-reliant and is beneficial economically, socially, and environmentally. Bulon Don island will be a model for self-sustainable management towards clean energy businesses which will be driven and expanded at the policy level in the future.