Powering a community

July 3, 2018

The government and UNDP are working together to find solutions for provision of electricity to off-grid communities.

“If we had electricity, we could power a light bulb. Then my children could study when we arrive back from the field and it’s dark already,” says Ard Saimanyphong, mother of ten, villager of Kobong village in Nakai district of Khammouan province.

Kobong is too far away to be connected to the national power grid. The village lies across the Nam Theun reservoir, up a small river, without any road connection. Only one third of its 80 houses own home solar power systems. Most of these are only enough to power one lightbulb. Shop owners can afford higher capacity systems, but there is only one television set and one refrigerator in the village.

In support of the Lao government’s national rural electrification targets, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is looking into possible solutions for providing electricity to Kobong and its neighboring villages. The work is being done under the global NDC Support Programme, implemented by The Ministry of Energy and Mines' Institute of Renewable Energy Promotion and supported by Germany and its International Climate Initiative IKI, the European Union and the Spanish Agency for International Development Coordination.

UNDP is looking into the possibility of utilizing mini hydro plants to provide Kobong with electricity

On a recent mission to Kobong, it was determined that the communities would need more reliable and stable power sources than what solar power home systems can supply. The Ministry of Energy and Mines is now looking into whether it’s possible to combine solar power with another solution. A mini hydro plant is in discussion, generating power from the natural precipitation of a small river behind the village. This way, power supply would be guaranteed regardless of the weather.

With the provision of electricity, the community health center could ensure better services for patients. “We will be able to do blood testing and properly refrigerate vaccines and medicines. Right now, since we have no means of refrigerated transportation, we can’t send samples downstream. Patients have to make their way to the next city to get tested,” says Peo, the village nurse.

UNDP and the Ministry are working closely together to find a solution that is both suitable for the needs of the community, and sustainable in its maintenance. One viable path discussed is the creation of village development funds, seed-funded by the community’s payments for electricity. This fund will help the villagers to find new income generating activities.

Improved access to electricity would have a significant impact on the lives of all villagers in Kobong


Please read this article in Lao.

“Journey to the end of the light” – See our photo story from Kobong

"Looking for light in rural Khammouan" - Have a look at the video on our field mission to Kobong

Read UNDP’s Technical Advisor Alexandra Soezer’s impressions of Kobong in her blog

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Margaret Jones Williams
Head, Natural Resources Management and Climate Change
+856 2055515876