Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade has proposed raising the country’s electricity imports from Laos through a planned 500-kilovolt power line project linking the two countries.
The move will make Vietnam a major importer of Laos' power and help it exert greater influence over the country’s power policies, experts say.
Vietnam has been buying electricity from its northwestern neighbor since 2016, when a 220kV line connecting Laos’ Xekaman 1 hydropower plant to Pleiku City in Vietnam’s Central Highlands was completed.
The 500kV power line project, which was agreed in principle by the countries’ trade ministries in 2010, is still in an early stage of development with no official announcement made so far concerning its future location.
If built, the high-voltage line will not only improve transmission capabilities between Vietnam and Laos but also link Vietnam with other electricity-producing countries in the region, according to Hanoi-Vientiane Electricity and Infrastructure Development Company, the project’s developer.
Vietnam is looking to import 2.4 percent of its total power supply by the year 2020, with a plan to reduce this number to 1.6 percent in 2025.
Laos, which produces more power than its domestic demand, is largely dependent on foreign electricity importers to develop its local power projects, experts said at a conference in Ho Chi Minh City last November.
Thailand used to be Laos’ biggest power market, but the country has cut down on its electricity imports due to stalling demands, increased domestic production, and citizens’ opposition.
Vietnam therefore is the only country with potential to become a major market for Laos-produced electricity, said Brian Eyler, director of Stimson’s Southeast Asia Program.