The government has affirmed its commitment to develop Phuket as a tourism, marine and land transport hub, ensuring that construction contractors will remain busy for years to come.
In addition to the B1.5 billion earmarked for “short term” infrastructure projects, the government is looking to have the B20 billion monorail project break ground within two years.
Private capital injection is also heralding the launch of a hoard of new retail projects, including The Mall Group’s B20 billion BluPearl shopping mall; Central Group’s B13 billion Central West; the B2 billion King Power Phuket Complex, B500 million GMS Duty Free Department Store, and not to mention the B800 million Phuket Aquapark, slated to open soon in Kathu.
Meanwhile, necessary infrastructure lags.
Even though Phuket’s official population is shy of 400,000, we can extrapolate from waste data that about a million people “live” on the island at any given time, with conservative estimates putting the annual growth rate at about 7 per cent.
Headlines constantly remind us of the undesirable side effects of this growth. Land encroachment and wastewater problems just won’t go away; the landfills are overflowing, incinerators run at maximum capacity while public transportation and water supply are inadequate.
But of all the issues, one that deserves more attention is energy. According to figures from the Provincial Electricity Authority, Phuket’s electricity consumption doubled in five years, from just over 1,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) in 2008 to more than 2,000GWh in 2013.
To put this into perspective, Phuket currently uses enough energy in one year to charge 100 billion iPhones.
And the meter is spinning faster with each new project green light. According to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), electricity supply is not sufficient, with demand slated to jump 35 per cent by 2019, to 529 megawatts to power the island, up from 391MW currently. (See story here.)
Considering that most of our electricity is imported, and derives from the combustion of fossil fuels (think Krabi coal plant) the price of our growth may be a lot higher than anticipated.
Right now, it’s looking more like an insatiable thirst.