HomeTop StoriesCrypto boom, irregular rain and outages in Laos, Asia's clean energy export...

Crypto boom, irregular rain and outages in Laos, Asia’s clean energy export hub

By Sudarshan Varadhan

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Higher electricity demand in Laos due to cryptocurrency mining and erratic rainfall has led to power shortages, a state-owned utility adviser said, highlighting challenges to the country’s prospects as a hydropower exporter to Southeast Asia.

Laos has been called the battery of Southeast Asia for its hydropower export potential, and providing the cheapest and most stable source of clean energy is crucial to decarbonizing the region that has struggled to scale up solar and wind power.

A policy move to establish data centers in 2021 has led to a boom in cryptocurrency mining, which now accounts for over a third of Lao power demand, while lower rainfall has curbed hydropower production, leading to power outages, said Somboun Sangxayarath, an advisor to the state. -run Electricite Du Laos (EDL).

Operators of energy-intensive data centers for crypto mining are looking for cheap non-fossil energy sources, which makes Asian countries such as Laos attractive.

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Hydropower was responsible for 80% of the electricity generated in Laos over the past decade, most of which was sold by independent power producers in cross-border agreements with Thailand and Vietnam.

In the domestic market, EDL is the energy supplier and has become a net importer since 2021, requiring up to 600 megawatts (MW) of additional capacity at peak times, more than doubling costs at the debt-laden utility, Sangxayarath said.

“During the dry season, we are unable to meet our demand, which is why we have imported more energy in recent years than in the past,” Sangxayarath told Reuters on the sidelines of the Future Energy Asia conference.

To reduce imports, Laos is building 720 MW of hydropower projects, which should be completed by the end of next year, Sangxayarath said.

To improve generation reliability amid erratic rainfall patterns, the country aims to increase the share of non-hydropower generation to 30% by 2025 from just over 20% now. Since there are no major projects in the pipeline, that seems unlikely.

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“Coal, there are potential projects, but due to the pushback from various organizations, getting financing for coal during this period is very, very difficult,” he said, adding that the country was also trying to build solar and wind power. hydrohybrid projects.

Laos said last year it would not supply power to cryptocurrency projects that had yet to start. Although the order is still in effect, the company is still actively considering new investment proposals and trying to increase energy availability, Sangxayarath said.

(Reporting by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Sonali Paul)

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