Protests against EGAT’s purchase of electricity Luang Prabang Dam

A network of civil society groups in eight provinces of Thailand, through which the Mekong River flows, has submitted a petition to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha expressing their concerns over the planned signing of Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), between the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) and a consortium of private dam builders, for the purchase of electricity from the Luang Prabang dam in the Lao PDR.

The Luang Prabang Dam is being developed by CK Power, in joint venture with PT Company Limited, CH. Karnchang Plc and the Petro Vietnam Power Corporation. The dam is located on the Mekong River in Luang Prabang and will have thecapacity to produce 1,460 megawatts of electricity, of which 1,400 megawatts are to be sold to EGAT.

The run-off river hydroelectric plant can produce an average of 6,577 million units of electricity per annum. The unit purchase price is 2.8432 baht and the electricity supply will commence on January 1st, 2030.

Amnat Trichak, a representative of the eight protesting groups, claimed yesterday that the planned signing of the PPA has not received any public input and that the dam project lacks a heritage impact assessment, as required by the World Heritage Committee, because Luang Prabang has been declared a World Heritage Site.

The groups also claim that Thailand has over 50% of electricity reserves and there is no need for EGAT to buy more electricity at a price much higher than the current 1.5 baht per unit, under the Take or Pay system, which means that EGAT has to pay even if the electricity is not used.

In the petition letter, the groups claim that the impacts on the ecology of the Mekong River and on the livelihoods of the people living along the banks of the river, from previous dam construction in China and the Lao PDR, have not been addressed by the government.

Amnart pointed out that the unnatural and unseasonal fluctuations in the level of the river have led to a substantial drop in nutrient-rich natural sediments downstream, causing the river to turn light blue, particularly after the opening of the Xayaburi Dam in Xayaburi province of the Lao PDR.

Witoon Permpongsacharoen, from Mekong Energy and Ecology Network (MEENet), noted that the price of electricity generated by the Luang Prabang Dam will be much higher than the average price in Thailand, as he accused the government of favouring the dam builders, while ignoring the plight of the people living along the river.

Another run-off river hydroelectric dam, Pak Lay, in the Pak Lay township of Xayaburi province, is also under construction, by Thailand’s Gulf Energy Development Plc, in a joint venture with Sinohydro (Hong Kong) Holding Company, a subsidiary of Power Construction Corp of China, and the Lao electricity authority. The dam will have thecapacity to produce 770 megawatts of electricity, which is expected to come on stream in January in 2032.

The Lao PDR has been nicknamed “Asia’s Battery” for its supply for hydroelectricity to neighbouring countries, including Thailand.

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