SCALING-UP OFF-GRID RURAL ELECTRIFICATION

Hong Kong & Laos | 1-14 December 2014

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In December 2014, GIFT's Global Leaders Programme brought together business talent from 19 different countries to explore the opportunities for expanding Pro-Poor Public-Private Partnerships in the country of Laos, working with the United Nations' Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.  Their goal was to explore ways to deliver electricity from renewable sources to off-grid rural communities throughout Laos.


Laos

Lao PDR, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is divided into 17 provinces, with Vientiane as the capital and has a population close to 7 million people. Laos has an abundance of rivers including a 1,900 km section of the Mekong River. 47% of the country is covered by forests and mountainous regions making the landscape ideal for generating hydropower.


 

 
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Traditionally an agrarian country, Laos is becoming more urbanised, market-oriented and increasingly integrated with neighbouring countries. However, the Asia Development Bank’s Lao PDR Energy Assessment, Strategy, and Road Map 2013 Update states that almost three-quarters of the population still lives in rural areas.

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Between 2002 and 2012, Lao PDR experienced economic growth averaging 7-8% annually12 and investments in mining and hydropower have increased over these years contributing significantly to Lao PDR’ economic growth. Hydropower output rose by almost 20% in 2011 and gross national income has more than doubled since 2006.


distinguished guest speakers

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RONNIE CHAN
Chairman, Hang Lung Properties Ltd

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GRAHAM BARKUS
Partner and Head of Leadership Advisory,
Hofer Tan & Partners

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ZOHER ABDOOLCARIM
Asia Editor,
TIME International

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JEAN-PIERRE LEHMANN
Emeritus Professor of International Political Economy, IMD


ON THE GROUND IN lAOS

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Lack of access to affordable and reliable energy is an impediment to economic growth and to the achievements of health, education and environmental goals, as well as meeting other basic needs such as safety and productivity. In many developing countries, including Laos, rural communities rely on traditional fuels and energy systems such as charcoal, wood and kerosene for cooking and lighting. These can be hazardous to basic facilities, causing fires, and can be harmful to human health, causing burns and respiratory problems due to poor air quality. In regions without electricity, homes and health centres cannot be equipped with medical machines or refrigeration units, which is a major concern both for food storage and for vaccines and other medication. Traditional energy systems are also more expensive compared to the unit price for electricity.

 
 

The village of Ban Phakeo is situated in the mountainous region of Luang Prabang Province and is home to 86 households. Villagers rely on subsistence farming, living primarily off locally produced rice, vegetables and mushrooms. Ban Phakeo has its own hybrid solar/diesel-power grid, funded by the French NGO, Fondation Energies pour le Monde and set-up by Sunlabob in 2009. Ban Phakeo is currently being connected to the national grid.

The group was greeted by the village chief, government officials and villagers who were delighted to meet a diverse group with representatives from Africa, Europe, the USA and Asia. Participants then visited villagers in their homes, interacting with residents and with members of the Women’s Union and Youth Group to learn about their livelihoods and the impact electricity has had on their lifestyles and economic prospects. The group soon realised that electricity alone, without an enabling environment for rural enterprise development, would not be sufficient to spur economic development and lift rural communities out of poverty.


the united nation's economic and social commission for the asia-pacific (ESCAP)

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The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the regional development arm for the United Nations for the Asia Pacific region. The organisation’s geographical scope stretches from Turkey to the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati and from the Russian Federation to New Zealand. Headquartered in Bangkok, ESCAP covers a region home to 4.1 billion people and works to overcome some of the regions greatest challenges by providing projects, technical assistance and capacity building to its 53 member states. ESCAP is committed to a resilient Asia-Pacific region, founded on shared prosperity, social equity and sustainability. The organisation’s vision is to be the most comprehensive multilateral platform for promoting cooperation among member states to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic and social development in Asia and the Pacific.


working towards a solution

The GLP uses real-world field projects as a learning platform for participants to develop and hone the practical skills needed to manage diverse teams in unfamiliar situations. Through meetings with government, local communities and business leaders, and through frank and open discussions, participants learn to navigate conflicting and contradictory views to transform concepts and theories into realities and practical solutions on the ground.

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Below are a few slides from the recommendations developed by participants. 

A key recommendation of the proposal is a new conceptual framework that places the emphasis on rural enterprise development to serve as the catalyst for rural electrification and the associated investments to boost national economic growth, nurture entrepreneurial initiatives, self-sufficiency and thereby provide stable and affordable electricity to rural communities. The report also makes a business case for developing and attracting rural enterprises as anchor consumers of electricity which would make investments in electricity-generating capacity more attractive thus incentivising the extension of the national grid and promoting local rural economic development.


The Global Leaders Programme culminated with a public forum in the city of Vientiane, during which participants presented the highlights of their business model to the project partners and to an audience of local community, business leaders, government officials and students. 

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For more information about the 2014 Laos Global Leaders Programme, or about the Global Leaders Programme in general,
please write to us at enquiry@global-inst.com