By Kanda Yaemboonruang
AIT alum Mr. Chaiwat Kovavisarach discusses what makes zero carbon emission possible, as he shares industry insight on technologies that will transform the future of energy – and his fond memories of AIT.
As the world is shunning fossil fuels due to their impact on climate change, and as technologies to produce renewable energy have made it more affordable to switch, it is not difficult to see the trajectory of energy transition – from dirty to green. With reduced cost and potential for limitless supply of green energy, the path to a brighter future for the earth and humanity is looking more promising than ever.
Working on that path is Mr. Chaiwat Kovavisarach, President and CEO of Bangchak Corporation, Thailand’s leading energy company – best known for its support for environmental sustainability, and an AIT alumnus. Graduating with a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from AIT School of Advanced Technologies in 1991, he is also currently serving as a member of the AIT Board of Trustees and Executive Chair.
Sharing his insight on the transition taking place globally, Mr. Chaiwat explained how renewable energy has been gaining more traction in the society in the past five years. As the costs for clean energy production are lowered, with China taking the lead in producing solar energy at scale, the price of solar power has thus become competitive with that of fossil fuel. The demand for renewable energy is, consequently, increasing globally.
“Renewables are pulling ahead in the power and electricity sector, and are receiving more support by the general public. This is the beginning of global energy transition,” said the CEO of Bangchak.
Completing the transition requires ‘energy storage technology’ – a system that can effectively store renewables. Pointing to the factor that is holding back the completion of energy transition, Mr. Chaiwat said, “The biggest disadvantage of renewables currently is the “intermittent” nature of it. We need efficient systems that can store renewable power during the high tide, so that we can make use of it anytime. These ‘batteries’ can be used in households or on the go like in EV cars (Electric Vehicle), which is now receiving a great deal of attention from various sectors. In the next five to ten years, renewable battery storage systems will be in high demand, and they should be researched and developed along with the clean energy itself.”
In addition to having a better technology for energy storage systems, the path to clean energy also requires ‘Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)’ technology – which will make zero carbon emission a reality.
Mr. Chaiwat explained, “CCS is a process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2), transporting it to a storage site, and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere. Some major industrial players as well as oil and gas companies are taking a serious look in developing this technology further.”
According to the International Energy Agency and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, CCS is one of the critical technologies required to achieve net-zero emissions and the climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement. “It is the technology for the future, and in the next 20 years or so, it will be commercially viable,” he further added.
Mr. Chaiwat Kovavisarach is well known in the energy industry. He is one of the first two Thais who won the Responsible Business Leadership Accolade from the Asia Responsible Enterprise Awards 2020. Under his leadership, Bangchak has been recognized as the ‘greenovation’ leader that is socially and environmentally responsible.
Graduating from AIT 30 years ago, Mr. Chaiwat still frequents his alma mater to provide support in knowledge-based projects, activities and scholarships. The Bangchak Initiative and Innovation Center on AIT campus was established by Mr. Chaiwat. Believing that human resource is the most valuable asset for the progress of the world, he recalls how his experience has made him part of the forces driving the progress.
“AIT guided me towards self-discovery and empowered me to believe in my abilities. I was able to transform myself using the most powerful tool - education. For me, a master's degree is a way to master myself. Apart from its strong academic foundation, AIT’s multicultural environment is also helpful,” the Bangchak CEO added.