Laos expects to see a big surge in electricity production over the next seven years with a number of hydropower plants currently under construction.
According to a report from the Ministry of Energy and Mines’ Energy Policy and Planning Department, installed capacity of Lao power plants will reach 12,500MW in 2020, up from 3,200MW at present.
The huge increase in power production capacity will be possible when eight hydro plants and one lignite-fired power plant become operational over the next seven years.
The first two hydropower plants scheduled for completion in 2015 are the 88MW HouayLamphan dam in LuangNamtha province and the 130MW Nam Khan-2 dam in LuangPrabang province. Also in 2015, the 1,800MW Hongsa lignite-fired plant in Xayaboury province will be completed and begin generating electricity.
In 2016 it is planned that the 180MW Nam Ngiep hydropower plant in Vientiane province, the 240MW Nam Ou-5 dam and the 180MW Nam Ou-6 dam in LuangPrabang province will be complete and start generating electricity.
In 2017, the 120MW Nam Ou-2 dam and the 60MW Nam Khan-3 dam, both in LuangPrabang province, will be complete and become operational.
The largest dam under construction in Laos, the 1,260MW hydropower plant in Xayaboury province, is scheduled to become operational in 2019. This dam is the first to be built on the lower Mekong mainstream, while there are several dams further upstream in China.
Economists say the huge increase in electricity generation will not only play a significant role in securing power supplies for domestic consumption but will also help to generate much-needed foreign exchange for the purchase of imported products.
About 85 percent of the power to be generated by the under-construction dams is intended for export to Thailand, which needs more power to feed its growing industry and further boost economic growth. Thailand has agreed to purchase up to 7,000MW of electricity from Laos by 2020.
According to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, Laos exported about US$500 million worth of hydropower in 2012.
Increasing power production will also help to protect Laos from climate change as the industry is free of carbon emissions. The ministry says the 12,500MW of installed capacity, or 60,000 GWh of electricity generated per year, will replace 5 million tonnes of fossil fuels and cut CO2 emissions by 30-60 million tonnes.
The government has committed to build hydropower plants as part of efforts to secure a sustainable source of energy. Laos is cooperating with the international community on the sustainable development of dams.