The Limits of Hydropower in Laos

Dam construction for energy supply in the lower reaches of the Nam Ou, cc Tbachner , modified,

On 5 November, Thailand’s National Energy Policy Committee (NEPC) agreed to buy electricity from three hydroelectric dams in northern Laos. Electricity will be exported from the Nam Gneum III dam, currently being built by Chinese firms in Xiengkhouang province, and another two proposed dams to be constructed on the Mekong River at Pak Beng and Pak Lay, both within 100 km of the Thai border. A Lao official has said work can begin now that Thailand has committed to purchase the electricity.

The hydropower projects are among many in Laos, which already has 78 dams in operation and has signed agreements for another 246 projects, according to Radio Free Asia. Laos has the potential to produce up to 28,000 megawatts of power by 2030, and aims to become the “battery” of Southeast Asia and export electricity to neighbouring markets in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, and further afield to Malaysia and Myanmar, despite fears of environmental harm from damming the Mekong.

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