'Coal plants will cause premature deaths'

'Coal plants will cause premature deaths'

COAL PLANTS in Thailand cause an estimated 1,550 premature deaths every year, according to new research by Harvard University and Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

That number could climb to 5,300 a year if plans to expand electricity production by building new coal-fired plants go ahead, the study found.

The report, "The Human Cost of Coal", is the first of its kind and looks at illnesses and deaths associated with Thailand's coal-fired power plants. Figures are based on state-of-the-art atmospheric modelling techniques deployed by a research team at Harvard University.

A proposed "clean coal" power plant in Krabi could cause 1,800 premature deaths over an operating life of 40 years, according to the report. With BLCP and Gheco-One plants at Map Ta Phut, Rayong, the number of premature deaths is projected to climb to over 14,000.

The report comes in the wake of an aggressive move by the Energy Ministry and Egat (the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand) to build an additional 7.43 gigawatts of coal power plants under the Power Development Plan 2015.

"Emissions from coal-fired power plants form particulate matter and ozone that are detrimental to human health. Our results show that planned coal expansion could significantly increase pollution levels across Southeast Asia. The health cost of air pollution cannot be ignored when deciding Thailand's energy future," Shannon Koplitz, lead researcher for Harvard, said.

Lauri Myllyvirta, a coal and air pollution specialist with Greenpeace International, said: "Global trends show that coal consumption is in decline. Coal use in the US, China and EU is falling fast and new electricity generation is based predominantly on renewable energy. China has covered its electricity consumption growth entirely with non-fossil sources since the end of 2011.

Chariya Senpong, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said that as a participating country in a global deal negotiation at the Conference of the Parties in Paris this December, Thailand could play a significant role in accelerating the region's energy transformation and the shift away from coal and other fossil fuels.

"It's clear that coal-fired power is bad for the nation's health, environment, energy security and international standing.

"Now is the time for Thailand to commit to truly secure, safe, clean and Thai-based renewable energy options," Chariya said.

The report is part of a Harvard University research series looking at the level of morbidity and mortality associated with coal power plants in Southeast Asia. It follows a recent study by Harvard and Greenpeace Southeast Asia called the "Human Cost of Coal-Indonesia".

That study placed the estimated annual premature deaths in Indonesia as a result of coal-fired power plants at 28,300. It emphasised the need for an immediate shift to renewable energy in Indonesia.

A similar report launched in September showed that coal plants in Vietnam are causing an estimated 4,300 premature deaths a year there.

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