Greg interviews Tristan Knowles, an Australian expat in Thailand working for the Asian Development Bank, specializing in infrastructure finance in the Mekong region, including alternative energy such as solar power. 

Greg begins by asking the obvious question: Thailand is practically constantly sunny, so why aren’t there solar panels on every rooftop? Tristan gives a detailed answer focusing on incentives. Obviously there’s an upfront cost to investing in solar power, whether you are a residence or a business. Most people need to be confident they will actually save money with the transition, but without proper financing and help from the government this is not always clear. So many early adopters in Thailand do it for environmental reasons, even if it’s not economical compared to traditional sources of energy. 

Next, Tristan discusses the relative success of Vietnam, where the government has been more proactive in supporting investments in solar power. According to Tristan, Vietnam generates close to 10 times more electricity through solar than Thailand, partly by paying generators more for the extra energy they don’t use themselves. This is probably good, because if it’s one thing Thailand hates, it’s being #2 in Asia.

Last, Greg and Tristan discuss some of the nuts and bolts requirements for going solar and the common obstacles that need to be surpassed for solar to be more accepted. Unfortunately, the simple take of “Hey this is a sunny country, perfect for solar!” doesn’t capture the reality of investment incentives and the appropriate government regulations to make the transition a reality. Luckily, things seem to be moving (slowly) in the right direction. 

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