Nam Ou hydro project on course for 2020 completion

LUANG NAMTHA, Loas (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The Nam Ou river in northern Laos will eventually have seven hydropower plants, with some already complete and generating electricity for public use. 

All of these dams will be completed by 2020 with electricity from these plants to provide 42 percent of domestic electricity consumption.

The scenic Nam Ou river originates near the border with China and flows through Phongsaly province over a distance of 475 kilometres to Luang Prabang province where it converges with the mighty Mekong.

Right now, power cuts are a frustrating fact of life in the provinces of developing nations like Laos when a large number of consumers require a lot of energy during hot weather.

However, the north of the country will no longer need to concern itself with such limitations upon the completion of the Nam Ou hydropower project in 2020, according to its developers.

General Manager of Nam Ou Power Company Ltd, Mr Huang Yande, told Lao and Chinese journalists about the aims of the ambitious project on Monday when they toured the Nam Ou 1 construction site, one of seven dams being built on the Nam Ou river in Phongsaly and Luang Prabang provinces.

The company said the project adheres to high quality international construction standards and aims to be a driving force of socio-economic development for Laos.

“The project isn’t having much adverse impact because we are not building large hydropower plants. Only 2,300 households have had to move to new locations that were organised by the company,” he said.

When all the dams are built in 2020, they will produce a combined total of 1,272MW of electricity, helping to power the northern regions of Laos. The Nam Ou 1 dam alone will generate enough power to supply Luang Prabang city.

Construction of the Nam Ou 2, Nam Ou 5, and Nam Ou 6 dams started in 2012 as the first phase of the cascade development, which was completed in 2016, and are currently generating about 540MW of electricity.

The second phase involves building the Nam Ou 1, Nam Ou 3, Nam Ou 4 and Nam Ou 7 dams, with construction work scheduled for completion next year.

All seven dams on the Nam Ou will be built at an estimated cost of US$2.8 billion, with financing and construction by Powerchina Resources Ltd.

The government has committed to building hydropower plants as part of efforts to ensure a sustainable source of energy for the north of the country.

The project will significantly expand the power grid in northern Laos, improve transport interconnections and meet the needs of the local electricity market.

The overall goal is to ensure that the northern provinces have sufficient electricity to sustain economic growth. At the same time, construction of the Laos-China railway is proceeding apace in Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, Luang Prabang, and Vientiane provinces as well as in the capital.

In addition, the Nam Ou hydropower project will play an essential role in regulating seasonal water shortages in the Nam Ou river basin, ensuring downstream irrigation for plantations and reducing soil erosion.

According to the company, Powerchina actively integrates into local development in Laos and pays attention to mutual growth opportunities desired by internal and external stakeholders. Internally, the company cares for and supports the career development of its employees.

The company has not only undertaken infrastructure construction, but has also built resettlement villages and supported public welfare activities such as education and medical care.

The Nam Ou hydropower project has a 29-year concession period with the electricity generated sold to Électricité du Laos (EDL). After 29 years, the seven dams will revert to government ownership.