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Empowering Lives with Pico Hydropower
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Empowering Lives with Pico Hydropower

Small-scale hydroelectric projects are helping to transform lives in rural Laos. Villagers not only receive electricity from a renewable source, but are also encouraged to take ownership of the project, thanks to an innovative financing model designed to ensure the system is sustainable in the long term.

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Produced by Thongsanti B. Vongsaly.

Learn more about LIRE (Lao Institute for Renewable Energy).

Originally featured in the ViewChange Online Film Contest.

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Segment 1

JAKOB RIETZLER [Managing Director, LIRE (Lao Institute for Renewable Energy)]
LIRE is a young institute dedicated in the renewable energy sector in the Laos PDR that tries to be a catalyst to speed up the development of the renewable energy sector, especially focusing on the rural areas, providing energy where the national grid does not reach that area.
THONGSANTI B. VONGSALY [Pico Hydropower Project Manager, LIRE]
In mid-2009, we began looking for a few places in Houaphan district. We found one place in Angsang village which was a good place which was quite far from the city and has high potential for installation of the system. So we approached the German embassy and BORDA organization to request for funding the project.
JAKOB RIETZLER
The project in Angsang village, it's a first time to demonstrate the shared pico hydropower technology in the country. It was a good site to make a kind of prospectus installation and we will use it also for later on to make ongoing studies, surveys about the operational models, and we'll learn from that demonstration site.
THONGSANTI B. VONGSALY
Pico hydropower is not new technology to local people. Many villagers in the northern part of Laos have been using it for some time already. There are two types of pico system: one system is a free-standing type, while the other is a standing one. The standing installation system consists of the pico turbine itself, a civil structure which includes a draft channel and a draft tube. The water flows into the draft channel, drops into the draft tube, causing the turbine to spin. The suction of the draft tube enhances faster spinning, and, finally, the power is produced.
MR. VANPHONE [Village Technician, Angsang]
In our village, there are two groups of village technicians. Each group consists of two people in charge of daily operation and maintenance. Their main responsibilities are to ensure steady supply of electricity, to check the meter and voltage, and to clean up the rubbish at the inlet, as well as fee collection.
MS. VONEPHIEN [Village Accountant, Angsang]
At the beginning of each month, village technicians are assigned to collect the monthly fee to give to the village accountant in order to keep in the village fund, which will be used for future renovation expenses and operation of the system.
JAKOB RIETZLER
The plan is to visit the village in this year various times, a couple of times. We will make social studies over there -- what is the impact of the new system? We want to evaluate it, and the system should work for the next 10 years. That means we also will show up for the next years to observe the progress, and so on.
MR. SITHONE [Village Chief, Angsang]
After this electricity system had been installed, lives of people here are more convenient. We have our own technicians, village energy committee, and village account to manage the system.
MR. THONGPHUN [Resident, Angsang]
In the past, we didn't understand what electricity, grid, or pico hydropower were. What we used was only kerosene lamp for the purpose of lighting at night.
MR. SOUPHANH [Deputy Head of Viengxay District Energy & Mines Office]
I am very glad that Lao Institute for Renewable Energy helps people in the Viengxay district, especially Angsang villagers. People are happier and can do lots of things at night, especially women, who can now weave at night, and children can study during the nighttime.
JAKOB RIETZLER
So a valuable lesson learned would be the involvement of the villagers is so important, but they also feel a kind of project ownership. It's not like the donor comes, implements the system. This is not the solution. Villagers have to get engaged from the beginning. Plus, they will get an understanding and also a commitment to the project.
SOPHA SOULINYADETH [Project Technical Officer, LIRE]
Due to this being the demonstration project, we would like to promote this project as a model of shared pico hydroelectric power use in Viengxay district in Houaphan province and other provinces in Laos.