Laos Urged to Revise Energy Production and Supply Policy

Vientiane Times, 21 March 2013

Laos needs to revise its electricity production and supply policy amid a surge in demand for energy, experts in the country advise.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines yesterday held a seminar to provide a platform for policymakers from the departments concerned and Electricite du Laos (EdL) to debate changes to the electricity production and supply policy to match the current development situation.

One of the main purposes of the seminar, held at EdL Headquarters in Vientiane, was to discuss measures and ways to secure sustainable development of the electricity generation and supply industry, while ensuring that the growing number of hydropower plants deliver the maximum benefit.

Laos has built 23 dams with combined installed capacity of 3,000MW. Most of the power generated by these plants is sold to Thailand, even though Laos suffers from inadequate supply.

Laos has to re-import electricity from Thailand for domestic consumption. The demand for power is growing due to the burgeoning manufacturing industry and the expanding population. This is causing the public to question whether the current electricity production and supply is appropriate.

The cost of imported electricity is higher than the export cost, so experts in the field believe the power production and supply policy needs to be reinvented.

One official at the seminar said Laos may no longer import power for domestic consumption in 2015, adding that a large number of the power plants under construction are expected to be operational within the next few years.

According to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, about 33 dams are in the construction or at the planning stage across the country with an expected output of around 6,000MW. These dams will become operational in 2018.

Another official said Laos must make sure that the price of exported electricity is higher than the cost of domestic power supply, as this would enable industry to access cheaper power, which would in turn boost the competitiveness of the manufacturing industry. Some officials said at the seminar that the revenue generated by the larger hydro plants should be reinvested in the development of small hydro plants, which produce power for domestic consumption. The revenue could also be invested in renewable forms of energy such as solar, wind power and bio-diesel production, to ensure a sustainable supply of energy in the future.

Many officials say Laos should charge different rates for household consumption of electricity and industrial consumption, explaining that industry needs cheaper power to be able to produce goods for export at competitive prices.

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