SWITCH-Laos: Power systems investment planning for economic and geopolitical resilience in Laos

Aaditee Kudrimoti & Natalie Fedorova, Michael B. Dwyer, Daniel Kammen, Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley, 94720

Despite the limited profitability and ecological unsustainability of large-scale hydropower projects, Laos continues approving the construction of mostly foreign-funded dams like the Nam Ou 7-Dam Cascade which is controversial for its ecological destruction, debt-potential, and Chinese involvement. Laos lacks both the robust, technologically diverse sectoral development plan and the bargaining power to direct Chinese capital towards becoming the “Battery of Southeast Asia” while scaling down hydropower. In order to illustrate how a comprehensive development plan with diversified renewables could assist Laos in negotiating power projects against China, we built three alternative scenarios to the Nam Ou dam project with the same capacity and demand specifications of the Nam Ou cascade using SWITCH-Laos. SWITCH-Laos is an energy systems planning and "greening" tool that assists us in exploring the cost and feasibility of generation, transmission, and storage option alternatives to the Cascade. These alternatives allow us to evaluate how robust, technologically diverse systems planning better supports Laos’s goal to be the Battery of SEA than existing sectoral development plans. Our central finding is that a diversified generation mix including solar and wind resources can meet domestic and regional demand, thus meeting Laos’s goal to be the “Battery of Southeast Asia” while mitigating ecological degradation from hydropower projects. We argue that Laos’s ability to posit a robust development plan can assist its negotiation capacity against foreign investors like China in order to maintain its geoeconomic autonomy and regional security interests.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenters: Aaditee Kudrimoti, Natalie Fedorova

Institution: University of California, Berkeley

Type: Poster

Subject: Environmental Science & Sustainability

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Poster 6
Date/Time: Tue 2:00pm-3:00pm
Session Number: 4671