The Green Journal is featuring three Low Carbon Model Towns (LCMT) in Asia-Pacific based on the feasibility studies conducted by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) with headquarter in Singapore. This is the second instalment of the series.

Samui Island is set to emerge as the first low carbon island in Asia-Pacific. APEC spearheaded the feasibility study and development plan on Samui as part of its project in 2011-2012.

The Thailand Tourism Authority claims Ko Samui as Thailand’s second most popular island destination (Ko means island in the local dialect). It is located in the Gulf of Thailand roughly 700 km south of Bangkok and 80 km from the southern coast. Samui is the nation’s third largest island and the largest in an archipelago of more than 80 islands that includes the Ang Thong National Marine Park, a kayaking paradise.

Ko Samui beach is popular destination featuring blue green waters and white sands, along with palm trees. (Photo: TAT)

The low carbon feasibility study for Samui includes nine measures. Topping the list is the reduction of carbon emissions through a shift from fossil fuels to renewables. Low carbon urban planning, efficient infrastructures, and effective resource management are also being put in place.

APEC outlines nine measures for a low carbon Samui.

Samui Island sets a high ambition to cut carbon emission by 20 per cent by 2020 and 40 per cent by 2030. Total emissions in 2020 is projected to be 509,299 tons annually. The feasibility study recommends emissions target by 182,544 tons per year in 2020.

Dr Twarath Sutabutr, deputy director-general of the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency (DEDE) in Thailand, and team leader of the APEC Low Carbon Town plan in Samui said the island’s energy supply is currently imported from mainland Thailand which makes costs very high and electricity supply unstable at times.

He suggests to draw the island’s abundant resources that could be harnessed for renewable energy such as solar, wind and hydro power. “Our plan is to leverage these natural resources to develop a more sustainable tourism destination,” he said.

Carbon emission targets for Samui

With about one million tourists per year and more than 400 hotels, current transportation infrastructure consumes around 40 per cent of total energy on Samui while hotels and other buildings constitute around 60 per cent of energy consumption.

The plan includes utilizing solar, wind and small hydro power, reliance on electric vehicles and reforestation and protection of existing forests. Green buildings for resort and hotel developments will feature solar water heaters, solar panels on rooftops, biomass power generation of kitchen waste and increased ventilation for natural cooling.

A plan for renewables

“In addition, a large amount of solid waste is generated daily on Samui Island and an efficient waste management system is urgently required,” explained Kamol Tanpipat, assistant managing director of Bright Management Consulting, who helped draft the feasibility study and plan.

“For example, the heat produced by waste incinerators is ejected into the atmosphere. Instead, heat recovery from the exhaust of these incinerators can be used to generate electricity. Developing a solid waste management system and improving existing incinerator plants are also being considered,” he added.

A secluded paradise for kayaking, diving or snorkling (Photo: The Beach Samui)

Samui Island has completed its low carbon feasibility study and baseline emissions targets, and is now moving into the second stage of implementation under the Department of Alternative Energy Development and Efficiency (DEDE) and supported by the Energy Conservation Fund of Thailand.

This includes detailed planning for developing the conceptual designs for the electric vehicle infrastructure, SMART grid, pilot green buildings, and a series of public awareness and education seminars.

Educating people on sustainable lifestyle is an essential element of the master plan. Eco-lifestyle is also expected to draw more tourists with various events and activities to be put in place, including Car Free Day, Clean Up the World Weekend, Earth Week and Earth Day, Bike Week, Recycling Week, Water Saving Week Samui Tree Day, and School Tree Day.

“Aside from funding, the other key issue in making the low carbon town a reality is addressing behaviour change in the local community and tourists through awareness and education of the importance of an environmentally-friendly lifestyle and the benefits of energy efficiency,”  Mr Kamol concluded.

Read the  Final Report for APEC Low Carbon Model Town Project Phase 2