Originally published on Wouter Van Wersch’s LinkedIn. Wouter is the President and CEO of GE Asia Pacific.
My first visit to Laos in September 2016, coincided with President Obama’s trip – when he became the first sitting U.S. president to visit the nation – and since then, I have always been impressed by the progress being made in the country whenever I return.
Laos has a very strategic geographical location, being at the center of ASEAN, and thanks to rich natural resources has a real opportunity to become a regional energy leader, or the “battery of ASEAN” as dubbed by some industry analysts.
Besides stunning scenery, very friendly people, and a rich culture, I’m struck by the deep commitment of all key stakeholders to improve Laos’ essential infrastructure.
The country’s growth and modernization ambitions were key factors that led GE to decide to open our office in Vientiane in June 2017. Through this office we have become a key pillar in the ecosystem, and we are well-set to contribute to Laos’ progress in energy, healthcare, aviation, and more.
Over the last two years, we have been working very closely with Electricité du Laos (EDL) on the execution of Grid Solution’s Nabong substation, as well as Hydro’s 4×65 MW Don Sahong power plant. Both projects are well on track and will make a significant contribution to bring more electricity to approximately 180,000 households in the country.
Improving lives and communities at grassroots levels is also important to GE and in September 2016 we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with EDL, to launch a joint initiative to develop a qualified hydro workforce through education programs and a training center at the Polytechnic College in Vientiane. This program was highlighted by President Obama during his speech (at the 11 minute mark) to the Laos people.
More than 400 young Laotians have participated in GE’s hydropower and engineering capacity building programs over the past two years and I am especially happy to share that young women made up about 25% of the intake for the welding courses last year.
Another great initiative was launched by one of the EDL participants to this year’s ASEAN Government Leadership Program in Crotonville. He was so inspired that when he returned he decided to launch a “mini-Crotonville” in Vientiane. The grand opening took place a couple of weeks ago, and GE will support his initiative by bringing-in GE experts.
On the 8th of November, GE organized “Powering Laos” the first-ever energy conference taking place in Vientiane. It was a fantastic opportunity to promote the sharing of ideas among government officials, local energy leaders and GE experts focusing on ensuring a sustainable future for the power industry.
Dr Daovong Phonekeo, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy & Mines graced the event with a keynote speech, and among the 70 guests we were honored to host three Ambassadors – United States, France and Japan – which is a great tribute to the global scale of our business.
Digital and its capability to improve power plant efficiency and productivity – and ultimately reduce emissions and cost – was discussed extensively during the event. I’m convinced that countries like Laos can use digital to leapfrog, and close, the technological gap. During the event GE Laos’ Country Leader, Sinnasone Boulom, signed an MOU with EDL-Gen regarding the Digital Transformation for Hydro Power Plants. Another great step in our cooperation!
It’s all about the impact
As shown in the “What Matters” video, at GE we believe “technology is how we do things” and “people are why we do things.”
Our technologies improve the lives of many millions of people every day whether it be providing power to remote areas and rural communities, transporting people globally, or delivering better healthcare to more people around the world at a lower cost.
Every time I visit a country where GE is present, I’m impressed by the impact GE has on people’s lives, and I’m inspired by the fantastic work our teams are doing on many levels in life-changing sectors.