The construction of a US$441 million hydropower plant in Attapeu province in southern Laos has started, the Lao news agency (KPL) reports.

Sekaman 1, one of key projects in the energy co-operation programme between the Laos and Vietnam governments, is the largest investment in hydro-electric power plant by Vietnam.

Addressing the ground-breaking ceremony, Vietnamese deputy prime minister Hoang Trung Hai said Sekaman 1 was one of the largest projects invested abroad by Vietnamese firms and described it a symbol of co-operation between the two countries. Co-operation in electricity development is one of the key areas in the bilateral economic ties between the two countries, he said.

The plant, designed for a capacity of 332 MW, is located in the lower part of the Sekaman river, about 80km from the Vietnam-Laos border. Sekaman 1 is part of a project which also includes the Sekaman Sanxay hydro-power plant.

The two are expected to go into operation in five years, generating a total 1.22 billion kWh a year. 20 % of its output will be sent to Laos while the remainder will be sold to Vietnam through a 500 kV transmission line between the two countries.

In addition to the project, the Song Da Corp, the project’s investor, has undertaken feasibility studies on six other hydro-power projects with a total capacity of about 1400 MW and located in southern Laos.