It’s common knowledge that you can sell your excess solar power back to the grid, but what if you could cut out the middleman and on-sell directly to your neighbour instead?

This peer-to-peer (P2P) trading network will soon be a reality in Thailand – the first initiative of its kind in South East Asia – thanks to leading independent power producer (IPP) BCPG Plc.

The renewables arm of oil and gas giant Bangchak Corporation, BCPG was established in 2015 and is now one of the largest IPPs in Thailand.

Its portfolio includes 182 megawatts of operating solar in Thailand and 236 megawatts in Japan; some 20 megawatts of wind energy in the Philippines; and another 180 megawatts in geothermal in Indonesia.

Bundit Sapianchai, President and CEO of BCPG Energy
Bundit Sapianchai, President and CEO of BCPG Energy

By 2020, BCPG’s goal is to operate a total of 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy by diligently investing in, managing, and developing as many types of renewable energy as possible.

BCPG recognises that the industry is moving from a centralised generation to a distributed energy model where blockchain technology will be crucial.

Putting the power of energy generation into the hands of consumers, P2P trading opens up the market to allow households to buy and sell excess solar energy independent of a power company, trading their energy for more than the feed-in tariff while still undercutting power providers.

It’s a concept BCPG President and CEO Bundit Sapianchai believes is the future of energy.

“I spent many years working for a number of big energy conglomerates – one of them being the very first petrochemical company in Thailand – but funnily enough, I’ve now chosen to work with this small, young company,” explains Bundit.

‘Black to green'

The executive describes his career progression as going from black to green.

After more than 35 years in the oil and gas power sector working for companies including National Petrochemical and PTT Global Chemicals, he decided it was time for a change of pace.

Bundit has spent the past 10 years developing and promoting renewable energy across Thailand through Bangchak Corporation (formerly Bangchak Petroleum) and now BCPG.

In September 2016, he led the company to a successful IPO on the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

“We are witnessing a transformation in the energy sector, not only here in Thailand, but globally,” says Bundit.

“It is changing from a centralised market full of large corporations into a distributed market with lots of smaller-scale players and start-ups.”

“We are also seeing traditional energy consumers turn into what we call prosumers.”

“They are buyers of high-quality technology products, which includes the production and consumption of their own energy.”

“BCPG is playing an active role in facilitating this change and we have already doubled our market capitalisation within a year.”

Internet of Energy

“To create this ‘Internet of Energy’ we must be diligent, tech-driven and always one step ahead.”

“To create this ‘Internet of Energy’, we must be diligent, tech-driven, and always one step ahead.”

BCPG is also transitioning. “We are transforming our model from wholesale to retail. We used to generate power and sell to governments and big corporations.”

“However, that market value is now decreasing with the rise of the retail market,” explains Bundit.

“Going from a low-margin space to a high-margin space will be an interesting challenge.”

In December last year, BCPG and Australian start-up Power Ledger joined forces to use blockchain technology to bring P2P renewable energy trading to Thailand.

Operations will start in early 2018. Together, the companies will create a micro-grid in Bangkok where six to 10 multistorey apartment buildings can trade one to two megawatts of embedded solar power.

“The energy market is huge in Thailand, particularly in Bangkok. So, we partnered with Sansiri, one of the largest property developers in the country, to develop a Smart Green Energy Community,” says Bundit.

Made up of houses, apartments, condominiums, schools and office buildings, this smart community will be completely energy efficient – with solar-produced energy allowed to be traded internally through blockchain technology and smartphone applications.

Bundit says that cooperation is a long-term plan for the next five years.

“The government has taken notice of what we’re doing and we’ve helped them understand the role P2P trading plays in lowering Thailand’s overall energy prices, as opposed to building another large-scale power plant.”

“We are creating a new energy economy that is more reliable and more efficient. Instead of sending energy all the way from a big plant, now we can just send it over the fence.”

“Instead of sending energy all the way from a big plant, now we can just send it over the fence.”

Bundit is confident that the Power Ledger partnership will strengthen both companies’ leadership in the renewable energy market and pave the way for an exciting energy future.

If all goes well, he says the companies will continue to expand their Asia–Pacific business.

“Unlike many Western countries, Thailand’s power sector is yet to be fully privatised. Nevertheless, the government has taken steps to help promote renewable energy and it will soon launch a team to buy back surplus energy from individuals, communities and even industries,” he remarks.

“This is good news for us because our trading platform is a scalable global solution – it can be used in houses, communities or a country.”

“It’s a big game we’re playing now and thanks to our technology, all stakeholders will get to enjoy a better energy life.”

In February this year, BCPG signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand to study smart energy infrastructure for Thailand’s iconic Smart Park in the Eastern Economic Corridor at Map Ta Phut, Rayong Province.

BCPG will work closely with Power Ledger to facilitate P2P energy trading in the THB12-billion development, which is expected to be completed by 2020.

BCPG reported a net profit of THB2.016 billion in 2017, up 30 per cent from 2016.

Young, small and beautiful

“We may be young, but we are already a multinational company with many different cultures working under our roof.”

“I believe if we take care of our employees, they will take care of the company,” explains Bundit.

“In this digital world, you don’t have to be big to succeed. We are small but beautiful, with the most advanced technology of any utility company in the country.”

Fast facts:

In February this year, BCPG signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand to study smart energy infrastructure for Thailand’s iconic Smart Park in the Eastern Economic Corridor at Map Ta Phut, in Rayong Province.

BCPG will work closely with Power Ledger to facilitate P2P energy trading in the THB12 billion development, which is expected to be completed by 2020.

Bundit is confident that clean energy and P2P trading will be the main sources of power in the future, ensuring strong prospects for BCPG as it continues to invest in renewable energy in Thailand and beyond.

“The term ‘disruptive technology’ can be taken in a negative way,” he says.

“But the way we are disrupting the industry is anything but negative: it’s creative and innovative disruption.”

“We are giving consumers the power to manage their own energy economy and create a better life for themselves and their communities.”