One of the largest hydropower plants in Laos has temporarily halted electric power generation in a bid to minimise the risk of flooding in the Xe Bang Fay river’s downstream area, according to the project’s operator.
Nam Theun 2 power company announced this week it had completely switched off five of its six electricity generators at its power plant in the central province of Khammuan since July 24, ceasing water discharge into the Xe Bangfay River.
The water discharge suspension is an obligation of the power company as outlined in its concession agreement.
It comes into force whenever the Xe Bangfay River is close to topping its banks at Mahaxay, a town close downstream from the point of discharge.
This suspension also aimed to prevent any worsening of situations and incidents caused by natural floods during this time of the year, according to the company statement.
“During the wet season, natural flood events occur along the Xe BangFay River, which overtops its banks nearly every year.
“To avoid aggravating the natural floods, the Nam Theun 2 Power Company (NTPC) has a contractual obligation to cease power production when pre-defined flood risk levels are reached in the Xe Bangfay River,” the company said its media statement.
A source at the Nam Theun company said that only a single 42 MW power generator was operating to generate electricity for internal usage.
However, the company confirmed that the operation of this electricity generating unit does not require release of any additional water into the Xe Bangfay as it discharges into a different channel.
According to a media release from the company, on 26 July 2018, village and district authorities from Xebangfay, Yommalath, Mahaxay, Xaybuathong and Nongbok visited the Nam Theun 2 Power Station to witness an confirm that NTPC had stopped releasing water.
The company will only begin releasing water via the downstream channel after river water levels have fallen to below the designated warning level, the company said.
A company source said that such suspensions could be considered a regular occurrence in the annual rainy season and this would be unlikely to cause a reduction in the annual electricity generation target.
The Nam Theun 2 power station has an installed capacity of 1,080 MW that can generate 6000 GWh of electricity per year.
About 95 percent of the power is exported to Thailand.
The company is an industrial and development investment owned by two private shareholders (EDF and EGCO) and the Lao government, backed by commercial lenders and international financial institutions including the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
The company is also committed to achieving the highest standards of environmental stewardship and protection of the environment for current and future generations.
The company is a crucial lynchpin for Lao development and is expected to generate some US42 billion in revenue to the government over the 25-year concession period.