Rarely visited by tourists, the island of Koh Jik lies off Chanthaburi province in the Gulf of Thailand.This serene and safe island is home to a mere 100 households. The majority of its inhabitants are fishermen who rely on marine resources. The lives of the local community depend heavily on their environment and thus the conservation of the island is essential.
Despite its proximity to the mainland, Koh Jik is not connected to the national electricity grid, as the Provincial Electricity Authority cannot economically supply electricity to an off-grid rural community on a island with such a small population. Prior to 2004, the residents ran individual diesel generators to meet their electricity demands.
The diesel, transportation and maintenance cost of these generators were high and as a result, electricity supply was not available 24/7 in most households.
In 2004, The King Mongkut University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT), with financing from the Ministry of Energy, installed a renewable energy (RE) – diesel hybrid grid to connect all households. The island is now supplied with solar power, wind power, batteries and a central diesel generator. This allows the households to save diesel costs and ensures minimal impacts on the environment during the transportation and use of the diesel fuel. Since the initial installation, the electricity system has been upgraded twice to increase the share of RE to the electricity supply.
The whole system is operated and maintained by the community. They organize it through their Koh Jik Energy Service Company (ESCO) which enables them to be independent of private operators and all benefits remain within the community. Since the system has been operating for many years, some technical problems have occurred and the current system is not able to tap its full potential.
In 2015, our Project Development Programme (PDP) team came across this model community. With the aim of supporting the communities to improve their system and achieve an energy-efficient electricity supply, PDP together with the Ministry of Energy, the King Mongkut University of Technology Thonburi and private companies, sent an initial delegation to the island to assess the current situation. Additional visits and cooperation between the involved parties are already planned to collect technical data, re-design and upgrade the system in order to increase efficiency and provide a secured power system.
Koh Jik’s vision is to achieve a 100 % RE electricity supply and phase out their diesel generator. Following the ‘seeing is believing’ principle, Koh Jik serves as a showcase community from where the idea can be spread to other islands.