While it is one of the smallest countries in ASEAN, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) plans to punch well above its weight as an energy producer and exporter in the region.
Through existing, and new hydropower stations to be built along the Mekong River, Lao PDR aims to boost hydropower generation capacity to 12,000 MW by 2020 (a four-fold jump from 2014 levels).
 By 2030,the government plans to double this to 24,000 MW to firmly establish Lao PDR as the “the battery of Southeast Asia” - exporting 80%
of the power to neighboring countries. Meeting this ambitious target however, will require more fully-qualified hydro workers, and new, or upgraded grid infrastructure.
These needs are addressed in a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Electricite du Laos (EDL) and GE to launch joint training and research programs to support the long-term development of the nation’s energy sector. EDL is the state corporation that owns and operates Lao PDR’s power generation, transmission, and distribution system.
The MoU was signed Mr. Boun Oum Syvanpheng, Managing Director, EDL and Mr. Wouter Van Wersch, President & CEO of GE at ceremony in Vientiane on September 5. Other guests in attendance included Mr. Viraphonh Viravong, Deputy Minister of Energy and Mines, and the US ambassador to Lao PDR, Mr. Daniel Clune.
Speaking at the event Mr. Van Wersch said, “Today’s MoU with Electricite du Laos, is a milestone for GE in Lao PDR as it enables us to bring our energy insights, expertise, and experience to the country and support important development programs that are key in achieving future economic growth.”
This sentiment was echoed by Mr. Syvanpheng, “Like GE, we believe fresh thinking, and a strong ‘next generation’ workforce are key factors to help us achieve our priority energy goals – from providing affordable, reliable power to more homes nationwide, to developing our energy export business, and the renewable power sector.”
Training and Research
The MoU aims at developing a fully-qualified Hydro Lao PDR workforce via GE’s potential contribution to the design and development of Hydro curriculum, hydro technical trainings in GE’s industrial facilities, Lao PDR’s hydro power plants, or partner university premises, developing local leaders via access to GE’s Corporate trainings, fostering access to power to local communities, and support for the construction and operation of a Hydro testing lab.
The training initiative was mentioned by President Obama during his speech to the people of Laos on September 6.
The research component of the MoU is a national grid study to be conducted by GE Energy Consulting with the aim to contribute to the security and reliability of EDL’s transmission network. Under the initiative, GE would analyze the existing grid system to identify current constraints and make recommendations for improved performance.
The feasibility of consolidating the grid infrastructure in Lao PDR, especially to merge the domestic network with that which links its power plants to customers in neighboring countries, would also be assessed, as would proposed network expansion plans for the next four years.
In addition to the signed MoU, GE announced the opening of its representative office in Lao PDR.
“The new office in Vientiane, coupled with the MoU signing, underscores our commitment to bringing our technologies, equipment and expertise to Lao PDR as well as our confidence in the country,” said Mr. Van Wersch.
“Moving forward, we intend to assess how GE can also play a role in supporting the country’s healthcare sector development and we look forward to collaborating with like-minded partners to do this.”