Xayaburi Hydro Project on Schedule, Energy Ministry Says

Watcharapong Thongrung
The Nation August 25, 2012 1:00 am
File photo of a hydropower in Laos
File photo of a hydropower in Laos

The Xayaburi hydropower project is on schedule to begin supplying electricity in 2019, as the Laotian government has given no written notice of its cancellation or postponement, said Norkun Sitthiphong, permanent secretary of the Thai Energy Ministry.

The Xayaburi hydropower project is on schedule to begin supplying electricity in 2019, as the Laotian government has given no written notice of its cancellation or postponement, said Norkun Sitthiphong, permanent secretary of the Thai Energy Ministry.

He confirmed this after confusing reports in the past few months over the progress of the project.

Laos said it would update neighbouring countries, which are concerned about environmental impacts along the Mekong River, on the progress of the project and heed their advice. But Vietnamese officials said they had not received any such information.

On August 7, conservationists and residents from eight Thai provinces along the Mekong River lodged a petition with the Administrative Court against the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat), the Energy Ministry and the Cabinet over their involvement with the Xayaburi dam. Much of the 1,285 megawatts of power from the US$3.8billion (Bt127billion) project will be sold to Thailand, as part of the country’s revised Power Development Plan (PDP 2010).

Norkun said yesterday that the ministry had not been notified in writing by the Laotian government of cancellation or postponement of the project. He also expressed confidence that the power feed would begin on schedule, around October 2019.

“The Xayaburi power plant plays a crucial role in Thailand’s power development. Aside from reasonable prices, hydropower also helps Thailand reduce its dependence on natural gas for power generation,” he said.

He said the power purchase agreement signed by Egat and the developer had been approved by the Mekong River Commission (MRC), as required by the National Energy Policy Council. It was also screened by the Office of the AttorneyGeneral and disclosed to the public. He expects the project developer to clear up any further doubts.

The project is being developed by Xayaburi Power, which is 50 per cent owned by Ch Karnchang, 12.5 per cent by Electricity Generating (Egco Group), 25 per cent by Natee Synergy, 7 per cent by Bangkok Expressway, and 5 per cent by PT Construction and Irrigation. Natee Synergy is a subsidiary owned by PTT International. Ch Karnchang on April 17 signed a $2.4billion contract with Xayaburi Power.

Sahust Pratuknukul, president of Egco Group, said construction of the project had kicked off and his company had put in its investment. However, the construction work so far has focused on inland infrastructure such as roads, not yet reaching the Mekong River.

He said he was confident that the project would be ready for commercial operation in 2019 and that Xayaburi Power could clear up any points of concern.

Under the 29year power purchase contract, Egat will pay a fixed price for electricity. The average price of Bt2.16 per kilowatthour throughout the period at the border point of sale is lower than the Bt2.90 per kilowatthour for power from a coalfired plant and Bt4.30 from a gasfired plant.

On advice from the MRC, the Laotian government in May decided to suspend construction on the Mekong but allowed inland work.

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