PENDING FINAL APPROVAL OF A concession agreement with the Lao government, Brussels-based Tractebel Electricity and Gas International (TEGI) expects to soon assume full control of the 150MW Houay Ho hydro power project in the southeastern corner of Laos.

As TEGI CEO Dirk Beeuwsaert said on 13 September 2001: ‘This new acquisition places us at the heart of the development of a regional electricity system in southeast Asia, and specifically at the heart of the future high voltage interconnection between Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and southern China.’ The interconnection’s development is being fostered by the Asian Development Bank’s Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) project. It will be largely hydro power based.

Tractebel is buying the full equity of South Korea’s Daewoo Engineering and Construction (60%) and Thailand’s Loxley (20%) in the project, as well as 100% of project debt for a total cost of US$140M. It will therefore, together with Electricite du Laos (EdL) which holds the remaining 20% equity, become project owner and operator under the original 30-year BOT deal.

Houay Ho was commissioned on schedule almost exactly two years ago on 3 September 1999. All of its power is exported to Thailand via a purpose-built 161km high voltage transmission line under a 30-year PPA with the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT). EGAT will continue as transmission system operator even after privatisation.

Through shrewd acquisitions over the past few years, Tractebel has emerged as one of Thailand’s most successful IPPs. It now holds controlling interests in five Thai thermal power plants with a total capacity of close to 2000MW. It also has other interests in Singapore and South Korea. The Houay Ho deal represents a major extension of its activities into a fourth Asian country and into hydro.