News 2010

Inauguration of Lao’s first rural electrification project connected to the national grid

On August 9, 2010, Sunlabob and its Swiss partner ENTEC AG, in association with Swiss NGO Helvetas, the Xiengkhoang department of Energy and Mines, and Electricité du Laos (EdL) inaugurated the first Lao renewable energy rural electrification project to be connected to the national grid. The event, which was held at the project site in Nam Ka, paid host to the Governor of Xiengkhoang, the project coordinator of the European Union in Laos, the German Ambassador of Laos, and the director of Sunlabob, along with dignitaries and representatives of EDL, Helvetas, and members of the local communities.

The Nam Ka project has undergone several phases. Originally conceived to demonstrate the rehabilitation of 1 of 40 neglected micro-hydro plants, the project, first initiated in 2005 by Sunlabob and ENTEC AG, soon became a test bed for sustainable rural development. In 2007, Helvetas joined the partnership and launched the Rural Income through Sustainable Energy (RISE) programme, designed to enable the community to fully exploit the economic opportunities of their renewed electricity supply.

Following the recent successful extension of the national electricity grid by EdL to within 8km of Nam Ka, the opportunity arose to connect the decentralised service to the grid and discussions commenced between the parties involved. After reaching an agreement on technical and financial terms, the partnership was realised in practice on July 7, 2010, when the village grid was connected to the EdL national grid network.

Whilst helping to accelerate the expansion of the national grid, this innovative approach also offers unparalleled opportunities for real economic improvement in rural communities, and is designed to support the National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy (NGPES). The connected grid provides a round-the-clock clean and reliable electricity service that benefits a community comprising of 5 villages and 347 families.

In developing countries which lack the capacity to provide 100% electrification, rural electrification is only made possible through the support of public-private partnerships.

This electrification project is the first of its kind in Laos and is significant because it features a unique agreement on feed-in tariffs as part of a public-private partnership, and demonstrates a rural development model that is replicable in other communities.

Please also read an article about the event in the Vientiane Times.