BOOK CHAPTER: Sustainable Electricity Transition in Thailand and the Role of Civil Society

Publication date:
October 2016

Handbook on Sustainability Transition and Sustainable Peace. Hexagon Series on Human and Environmental Security and Peace

Carl Middleton (Deputy Director, CSDS)

Brauch, H.G., Spring, U.O., Grin, J., and Scheffran, J.

Further details on the book are here.


The chapter explains the creation and resistance to change of Thailand’s centralized and fossil-fuel intensive electricity regime through a Sustainability Transition and Multilevel Perspective lens, with an emphasis on the sector’s political economy. The incumbent electricity industry has evolved from a state-owned monopoly to a partially-privatized industry structure dominated by the state utility and several large independent power producers. The analysis demonstrates how important global landscape shifts articulate with the sector’s domestic political economy, including a shifting global development paradigm from developmentalist state to liberal market principles, as well as the impact of waves of global economic crisis. The chapter highlights the role played by civil society coalitions in unsettling the incumbent electricity regime since the late 1970s, despite significant power asymmetries, through opposing problematic projects, advocating for progressive policy, and proposing alternative plans, values and visions for Thailand’s electricity sector. Important but small steps towards sustainability transition are identified, including greater energy conservation and distributed renewable energy generation, the creation of an independent regulator, and a small increase in public participation and accountability in the power planning process. The chapter argues that civil society has been—and will continue to be—important in shaping the incumbent electricity regime and often acts as a catalyst for transition towards sustainability.