The first of six 400 MW turbines at the Son La hydroelectric power plant, in the north of Vietnam, has come on stream, officially plugging into the national electricity grid two years ahead of the schedule set by the National Assembly.

The Son La plant’s first turbine has been brought on line early to ease the country’s power shortages. The next goal is completion of the remaining turbines in late 2012. National power company EVN plans to install the second turbine next April and next October.

Son La Hydroelectric Power Plant is the biggest of its kind in Southeast Asia. It was designed with a total capacity of 2400 MW from its six turbines. The plant should provide over 10.2 billion kWh of electricity for the national power grid each year after the project is completed in 2015.

Construction of the plant in the mountainous northern Son La province’s Muong La district started five years ago. Investment in the project totals more than VND42 trillion (US$2 billion).

Nguyen Tan Loc, head of EVN’s Planning Department, said that commercial electricity production had increased twice as fast as the GDP growth rate, but Viet Nam still lacked electricity to supply production. Viet Nam relies heavily on hydroelectric power but lower than average rainfall this year has meant that the country could see a power shortfall of anything up to 1.4 billion kWh.