Điện mặt trời và điện gió có giá thành dần rẻ hơn, nên Việt Nam và Thái Lan sẽ giảm nhu cầu mua điện từ Lào, dẫn đến các dự án đập thủy điện lớn ở Lào trở nên khó cân đối nguồn thu -> có thể các đập đang dự tính sẽ không huy động đủ vốn để xây.
Nor does Hanoi want to offend Vientiane, where China, with deep pockets, has gained influence at Vietnam’s expense. The result, a development policy specialist with decades of experience in Vietnam suggested to me, is that the Vietnamese government aims to slow walk the Luang Prabang dam project until it dies of unfinanceability.
Though there’s a certain logic to focusing effort on things one is good at, and surely Vietnamese state companies and their Thai and Chinese counterparts have plenty of experience building and operating big dams, there’s come a point where, even if externalities aren’t considered, big dams no longer make economic sense. The price of solar and wind power generation has fallen so far and so fast in the last decade that big hydro no longer is bankable.
Southeast Asia generally, and Vietnam in particular, are blessed with abundant solar and wind energy resources. Utility-scale solar projects can be brought to the market in a year or two; utility-scale wind projects take a bit longer.
Midway through a remarkable refocusing of its power development strategy away from reliance on hydro and coal, Hanoi is eager to cover short-term gaps by purchasing power, perhaps as much as 1500 gigawatt hours, perhaps 10 percent of a projected shortfall, from Laos in 2021 and 2022. In the longer term, Laos doesn’t much figure in Vietnam’s energy policy planning.
I contacted Brian Eyler of the Stimson Center, whose “Last Days of the Mighty Mekong” (Zed Books, 2019) is the go-to book on the river’s present-day tribulations, to ask if he agrees that by churning up consultation activity in the MRC, the Lao government is trying to create an illusion of forward motion towards its vision of Laos becoming the hydro-powered ‘Battery of Southeast Asia.”
“Yes,” Eyler replied. “In addition to a lack of financing for these projects, an offtaker has yet to appear to purchase power from the dams. None of the dams you’ve mentioned has a power purchase agreement to back it up. It’s mindboggling to see the MRC start the [consultation] process without these key boxes (financing and power purchase agreements [PPA]) checked off. Perhaps the Lao government’s calculus is to use passage [through the multinational consultations] as a way to gather financing and PPAs.
“Mooting these dams now gives an illusion of progress when in actuality all signals point to mainstream Mekong dams being obsoleted in the very near term. Unreliable flows, cheaper alternatives and efficiency gains in key markets like Thailand and Vietnam are greatly reducing the need for power produced from far-flung mega dams. Clearly Laos needs to explore alternative development options.”