Laos commits to build sustainable hydropower plants

January 16, 2013

Concept art depicting how one of Laos' hydropower plants will look like.

Concept art depicting how one of Laos’ hydropower plants will look like.

Laos is committed to building more sustainable hydropower plants amid rising demand for electricity on both domestic and international markets, according to a senior official from the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Energy Policy and Planning Department Director General Dr Daovong Phonekeo said yesterday in Luang Prabang that the government has a policy to ensure the energy industry in Laos is developed sustainably.

They aim to do so by building more hydropower plants, whilst taking into account environmental protection measures and ensuring better living conditions for the Lao people.

He explained that it is crucial to acknowledge the importance of sustainable development and the ministry will do its best to protect the environment, otherwise Laos will gain nothing from development in the longer term.

“If it is not sustainable, and dam construction fails to protect the environment, that means that local people won’t receive any benefits from the development,” he said in an interview with Vientiane Times while attending the Mekong River Commission Council, which will run from January 14 to 17 in Luang Prabang. Dr Daovong said the Ministry of Energy and Mines had completed a number of legal documents to regulate the development of dam projects in the country to ensure environmental protection and the improvement of living conditions in local communities.

“The ministry is revising the national strategy on hydropower development to meet the reality of the current situation,” he said, adding that the ministry was also mindful of the need to strengthen the capacity of energy development institutions so they can monitor dam development in the country.

Dr Daovong said that the government has adopted a policy to seek modern technology and expertise from foreign countries, in particular from European nations, which have demonstrated success in dam construction, adding that Laos is not the first country to build hydropower plants on its rivers.

Government policy also promotes private investment in the construction of power plants. With an abundance of rivers and mountainous terrain, Laos has the potential to build more than 100 hydropower plants with a combined installed capacity of about 30,000 MW.

At present, Laos has completed construction of more than 17 power plants with a combined installed capacity of about 3,000 MW, or 10 percent of the total potential. Demand for electricity in Laos and foreign markets has increased rapidly due to economic growth throughout the region.

Dr Daovong said that over the past several years Laos has seen remarkable success in the development of sustainable hydropower plants, and one of the best examples is Nam Theun 2 in Khammuan province, which set the benchmark for resettlement. Dr Daovong said that the electrical power produced by the hydropower plants was the cleanest and cheapest energy option for Laos. He said that the country’s carbon-free hydropower plants do not produce any pollution, and so help to protect against climate change.

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