Thailand’s Energy Review Delays Launch of Controversial Mekong Dam

The Wire –

A major energy review by Thailand has delayed the launch of a controversial dam on the Mekong. This could lead to further questions about future hydropower projects along the river.

The Chinese-backed Pak Beng dam in Laos was supposed to be the third dam under construction on the lower Mekong, out of a total of 11 hydropower projects mapped out. Then earlier this year, Thailand’s Electricity Commission (EGAT ) deferred a decision on signing the power purchase agreement for the Pak Beng dam until the country’s energy development plan was completed. EGAT had originally agreed to buy 90% of the electricity from the dam.

Brian Eyler, director of the Stimson Center’s Southeast Asia programme, said that, “the prospects for the Pak Beng dam to move ahead as originally planned are unlikely given EGAT’s adjustments to a renewable energy transition.”

While the Chinese dam-builder Datang Overseas Investment appears likely to lose its Thai partner EGAT, pressure is coming from a very different quarter. Far removed from the world of energy executives in Bangkok, the protest movement of Rak Chiang Khong, a Mekong conservation movement, and their grassroots campaign based in northern Thailand, has also contributed to the dam’s delay and growing uncertainty for investors.

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