ERC speeds operation of Laos hydropower project

ERC speeds operation of Laos hydropower project

This was the Xayaburi Dam a year ago as it started to get ready for testing. Tests are running well ahead of schedule. (Photo provided)
This was the Xayaburi Dam a year ago as it started to get ready for testing. Tests are running well ahead of schedule. (Photo provided)

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is planning to accelerate power distribution from the Xayaburi hydroelectric power project in Laos ahead of schedule as the regulator wants to curb the overall power tariff.

The project is Southeast Asia's largest hydropower plant, with a development cost of 150 billion baht, previously scheduled to open on Oct 1.

Xayaburi has installed power-generating capacity of 1,285 megawatts (MW) for 7,370 gigawatt-hours per year.

The project comprises seven turbine generator units of 175MW each that will generate and transmit power through the 500-kilovolt (kV) transmission system to the state-run Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat). The plant has one 60MW turbine generator unit that will distribute power through the 115kV transmission system for domestic use in Laos.

CK Power (CKP) is the developer and operator for this project.

A source who is familiar with the matter and requested anonymity said the project is almost completed and is undergoing a test run on its power generating system.

"The first turbine generator unit of 175MW was tested last October and we plan to test all eight units, then schedule a commercial operation date [COD]," the source said. "The former COD was Oct 1, but the ERC wants to speed up power transmission to maintain the country's power tariff and avoid an uptick in Thai power bills."

The source said CKP spent 1 billion baht for the test-run period in 2018. CKP allocated another 500 million baht this year to accelerate completion of Xayaburi before October.

Vorapote Choepaiboonvong, CKP's director, said the company's power capacity stands at 875MW out of a total committed capacity to operate 2,160MW. Of the committed capacity, 615MW will come from the Nam Ngum 2 hydroelectric power project, followed by 238MW from two phases of Bangpa-in Cogeneration plant and 22MW from a new solar power project.

"With the additional capacity from the Xayaburi project under CKP's ownership, capacity will be raised to 2,160MW in 2019," said Mr Vorapote.

Of the Xayaburi project's total capacity of 1,285MW, CKP holds a 30% stake together with Natee Synergy Co (25%), Electricite du Laos (20%), Electricity Generation Plc (12.5%), Bangkok Expressway and Metro (7.5%) and PT Sole Co (5%).

He said the Nam Ngum 2 hydroelectric power project in Laos is developed and operated by CKP's subsidiary Nam Ngum 2 Power Co (NN2). CKP plans to issue debentures of up to 6 billion baht in March to refinance the project's debt.

Tris Rating rated NN2 an A, based on CKP's issuance of debenture recently. This rating reflects the financial capability and management of the 615MW Nam Ngum 2 project.

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