Submitted by: Sunlabob Renewable Energy
Implemented country: Lao People's Democratic Republic
Title: Clean Electricity for Prosperity, Karaoke and Movies in Remote Villages
Many Laotian villages are not hooked up to the national power grid. Their electricity comes from local power sources such as hydropower. However, during the arid season most rivers dry up, so additional power sources are used, such as solar energy or diesel generators. A better solution was needed. So Sunlabob – under the leadership of company manager Ann Moey – started an innovative project. An educator and electronics expert, Ann was very sure of the feasibility of her idea and that there was no getting around renewables and environmental protection. Everyone needs to know and learn about it, most suitably through a vivid example. So Ann organized the Nam Kha project, the first project in Laos where a remote village would feed “homemade“ electricity to the national power grid, at the same time making a profit.
Private investors don’t like putting their money into rural energy projects. It just doesn’t pay off. Or does it? Ann Moey decided to offer proof to the contrary. With a new investment idea: Public investors – in this case a cooperation between the village of Nam Kha, Helvetas, ENTEC, and Sunlabob – provided financing for the infrastructure: Dams, inlets, canals, buildings, the grid, as well as other structures. The private investor paid for the movable parts of the plant: Turbines, generators, solar panels, batteries, etc. The private energy provider was Sunlabob who was also in charge of training the local energy committee that would later the run the plant. Electricity was to be sold to the local grid, and the committee would sell it to individual households and small companies. In May 2007, Sunlabob built its first Combined Power Grid and was able to prove to everyone that it works, albeit not without some glitches, especially as far as training the “energy adviser” was concerned. For example, a not approved welding set made the system break down, the grid collapsed and the villagers lost confidence in themselves for a long time.
The Nam Kha project was the first public-private partnership project in Laos with feed-in tariffs for the public power grid. Now households have 24-hour access to electricity for light, TV, or radio. The plant produces 175,200 kWh per year while daily energy consumption is at approximately 24 kWh. That leaves quite some leeway. The power grid provides opportunity to generate additional income. Small enterprises such as joiners or welders have opened for business. Agriculture has been boosted. Rice mills and water pumps are up and running. But Sunlabob turned into a loss-making project. Still, Ann Moey keeps on working. She would like to hook up other villages to the local power grid and adapt her investment model to all of Southeast Asia because she is convinced of the fact that Nam Kha is a showcase project. She is also very happy for the villagers who now spend their free time in their new entertainment hall with karaoke or watching exciting movies.
“To live life without any regrets.”