Vientiane Times, February 22, 2014
Laos has huge hydropower potential. About 20 hydropower projects have been developed so far, tapping just 15 percent of the country’s hydroelectric potential.
Another 40 to 50 hydropower projects will be operational by 2025, generating income that will contribute to national development.
The statements were raised at the first meeting of a working group which was attended by more than 60 representatives from hydropower and construction companies.
International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, and the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently hosted the first meeting of a working group in Vientiane.
The aims of the meeting are to develop hydropower that is both commercially viable and environmentally sustainable.
“Hydropower development is one of our country’s answers to poverty alleviation,” President of the Lao National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Sisavath Thiravong said.
“Now, our challenge is to make sure project sustainability is a priority for all companies. The turnout for the working group demonstrates that we all have a common interest – to develop hydropower projects in the Lao PDR more sustainably.”
The Hydropower Developers’ Working Group, which met for the first time on Wednesday, is the first of its kind in the Mekong region.
It aims to help hydropower and construction companies channel their concerns to the government, tackle business challenges, and develop hydropower that meets environmental and social best practices.
“The Hydropower Developers’ Working Group is a good opportunity to share our common concerns of sector-related issues,” said Milo Tang, Assistant Director of the Lao Project Department at China Southern Power Grid International.
“By raising environmental and social standards, we hope to lower risk and improve our financial performance.”
Following the meeting, participants attended a seminar on sustainable project financing and investment, and managing risks while addressing social and environmental responsibilities. Members have indicated that they are keen to learn about dam safety, environmental and social risk management, and technical and financial policies in future seminars.
“We are encouraged by the strong interest and support from stakeholders including project developers, utilities, and the government in establishing the Hydropower Developers’ Working Group,” said Simon Andrews, IFC Regional Manager for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. “We expect the working group to help form a partnership between the government and companies to tackle issues affecting the sector and develop hydropower efficiently and sustainably.”