Gas power plant operating in the United States similar to the Jackson Generation purchased by Gulf Energy Development. [Image: American Public Power Association / Unsplash]

Leading Thai Energy Development Company Invests in Illinois Energy Plant

ASEAN The Mekong Asia

In September 2022, Thailand’s leading energy power producer, Gulf Energy Development, purchased 49% of Jackson Generation, a gas-fired power plant in Illinois, for $410 million, marking the company’s first move into the US energy market. This investment aligns with Gulf’s commitment to enhance energy security through supplying reliable, low-cost electricity while also becoming a low-carbon energy supplier. The Jackson Generation gas-fired power plant process involves combined cycle gas turbine technology to generate low greenhouse gas emission.

Jackson Generation, located in Will County, supplies electricity to the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection merchant market also known as PJM. It is a wholesale electricity market for 13 states - Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia - and the District of Columbia.

Jackson Partners owns Jackson Generation, and Jackson Generation is a subsidiary of J-Power Group, one of the world's largest independent power generation companies. As the electricity demand in the United States grows, Gulf is developing additional power projects and considering significant investments with various partners, including J-Power.

In July 2021, another Thai firm Banpu completed its acquisition of national gas and midstream assets in a shale field in Texas from two subsidiaries of the Exxon Mobil Corporation. Purchased in 2021, this acquisition signifies a milestone in the development of Banpu’s Greener Smarter business in the United States, as the company is committed to generate more than half of its profit from low-carbon businesses by 2025. With both companies committed to invest in green energy, it demonstrates Thailand’s commitment to ramp up renewable energy to 50% by 2050 in order to achieve Thailand’s Ministry of Energy’s climate pledge.

These companies demonstrate Thailand is an important and critical economic partner for the United States. The United States is Thailand's third largest trading partner and both countries have strong trade ties that date back to the 1833 Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Moreover, the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) between the United States and Thailand, signed in 2002, continues as a crucial forum for bilateral trade initiatives and discussions.

Thailand continues to be among the top ten Indo-Pacific countries with the highest Greenfield Investment in the United States. As of 2021, Thailand’s Greenfield Investment to the United States is $1.2 billion which rose by 9% since 2018. Thailand, as an ASEAN member, contributes to the strong trade relationship between ASEAN and the United States. The United States is ASEAN's second-largest trading partner, with a direct investment of approximately $338 billion in the region.

Narupat Rattanakit is a Pericles Institute Fellow and Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington. He graduated with a BA from Thammasat University in 2020 and is pursuing his MA in US Foreign Policy and National Security with a regional focus in Southeast Asia.