November 28, 2011 00:00 By Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Vientiane - Construction began on a US$3.7 billion lignite power plant that is to become Laos' largest electricity generator upon startup in 2016.
The Hongsa Power Co - a 40-40-20 joint venture among Thailand's Banpu Power Ltd, Ratchburi Electricity Generating Holding Plc and Lao Holding State Enterprise - broke ground on the project last week, the Vientiane Times reported.
The power would be supplied to Thailand.
The 1,878-megawatt power plant, located in the Hongsa district of Xayaboury province, about 200 kilometres north-west of Vientiane, would export 1,500 megawatts of electricity to neighbouring Thailand.
The government of Laos, an impoverished country with abundant hydro and lignite coal resources, has undertaken a host of power plant projects in recent years with the goal of spurring economic growth via energy exports to Thailand and Vietnam.
Many of these projects have run into criticism from environmentalists, concerned about their impact on fisheries and villagers living in the area.
The Nam Theun 2 hydropower project, a 1,070-megawatt plant that opened in March 2010, had to undertake extensive environmental and social impact studies before it finally got the go-ahead.
Government revenues from the project, which was guaranteed by the World Bank, have been earmarked for poverty alleviation.