The Mekong region is rapidly developing and energy to support economic growth is in high demand. Current instability of oil and gas prices, concerns about the future of fossil fuel energy, and the availability of private financing are making hydropower more attractive and accelerating its development in the Mekong River Basin (MRB).
The potential of hydropower in the MRB is about 53,000 MW consisting of 23,000 MW in the Upper Mekong Basin (China) and 30,000 MW in Lower Mekong Basin (Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam). Locations current and proposed hydropower projects are shown in the map. locations and current stage of the projects (26 projects are locate in the mainstream and the remaining 126 projects are in the tributaries).
There are 4 operating hydropower facilities in the mainstream of Mekong River in Yunnan Province of China with install capacity of 8,850 MW. Another3 projects are under construction. Two of these, -Xiaowan and Nuozhadu, have large storage reservoirs (> 27 km3) which could cause significant changes in flow regimes, water quality and sediment transport.
The tributaries in the LMB are currently producing 3,225 MW (10% of its potential) and a further 3,209 MW are under construction. Thailand and Viet Nam have developed most of their potential tributaries sites. Lao PDR has the largest remaining potential for hydropower and is currently striving to accelerate development.
The mainstream of the LMB has a potential to produce over 13,000 MW of hydropower. Over the past few years, investors and developers mostly from China, Malaysia, Thailand and Viet Nam have submitted proposals for twelve hydropower projects for the LMB mainstream. Those proposals are among the largest and most significant developments ever considered by LMB countries in terms of benefits and risks
Map design: University of Canterbury, Data source: MRC Hydropower database
MRC (2010), Summary of the final report, Strategic environment assessment of hydropower on the Mekong mainstream.